Nearly all major law firms espouse commitment to helping women succeed. They demonstrate this commitment with a variety of initiatives for female professional development, such as affinity groups and business development programs. But many question if these programs produce results.

The National Law Journal examined the data from its 250 Survey to gauge the percentage of equity partners at these firms who are women. Results of the analysis show that women represent 15.1 percent of equity partners. Among all partners—equity and non-equity—the figure is 18.8 percent. This number represents slow progress from 2003, when a similar survey was conducted. 

Firms with more women partners say that women’s initiatives are not the driving force for success. "The culture drives it," said K. Allison White, a litigation partner in Ballard Spahr's Denver office. "It's something that can't happen overnight; it has to be long ingrained in the culture," added Ballard partner Lynn Rzonca.

Chair Mark Stewart went on to say that firms with a record of success with women feel progress is inevitable. He says that, although half of the new partners have been women in recent years, he's no longer surprised. "I don't think it's amazing anymore. I think that's what's going to happen." The firm, he said, has evolved to a point where the sex of the associate coming up for partnership is barely noticed. "Whether someone is female or male is a nonissue."

To read the full article, click here.

To view the chart of firms ranked by equity partners, click here.