As Laura Leopard‘s team at Leopard Solutions was analyzing the 2021 law firm lateral movement data, a glaring statistic stood out. There were a lot of women attorneys leaving AmLaw200 firms, and were not coming back like their male counterparts were. As with any good data expert, Laura worked with her team to find out the reasoning behind this trend. The results of that study were released earlier this summer in Leopard Solution’s “Women Leaving Law” report.
We sit down with Laura to discuss statistics that show that some 64% of women lawyers who leave AmLaw200 firms don’t come back to those firms, some 60% of male attorneys don’t either. And while many might think that the reasons for women not returning are part of the “Shecession” of the pandemic, the survey shows that is not the primary reason. The actual reasons involve things like law firm culture, lack of lateral recruiting of women, uneven promotions, and lack of flexibility needed to retain women in the legal workforce.
The report does give eleven processes that law firms can implement to help recruit and retain women. We go through each of those, one by one to learn more.
AALL Crystal Ball Question
We have a familiar voice joining us this week as Bob Ambrogi answers our Crystal Ball Question and discusses the path he predicts state legal regulatory sandboxes are going to take over the next few years.

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Marlene Gebauer 0:20
Welcome to The Geek in Review, the podcast focused on innovative and creative ideas in the legal industry. I’m Marlene Gebauer.

Greg Lambert 0:27
And I’m Greg Lambert. Marlene, you have a session next week and where you’re presenting at ILTACon. Are you ready and packed for the National Harbor?

Marlene Gebauer 0:39
Yeah, I’m getting there. It’s like I’m gonna I’m gonna travel in light because I have a few other stops before I actually get to that National Harbor. So I’ll be stopping in Chicago and then there and then flying back. So sounds busy. Yeah, very busy next week. But the session that I’m going to be co presenting with Danette Schaefer from traveling coaches is couch to 5k learning strategies to transform your training program. So we’re on Wednesday at 4pm. I think. So, you know, if you guys are still there, please come by, we’d love to have you.

Greg Lambert 1:21
I think I have a phone on or an app on my phone that does from couch to 5k. But I’ve never actually opened it.

Marlene Gebauer 1:29
Well, there’s your first problem

Greg Lambert 1:31
is your problem.

Marlene Gebauer 1:34
So this week, we bring in Laura Leopard from Leopard Solutions to discuss the data her company began uncovering at the end of last year, where over 2500 Women Lawyers left their jobs during the pandemic, and apparently did not reenter the profession, like most of their male counterparts did. Leopard solutions, women leaving last survey dives into the different data points and a survey of women from the AmLaw 200 firms to find out the reasons behind this exodus of women from big law.

Greg Lambert 2:03
But before we get into that, we have a familiar voice to many of us in the legal technology industry this week to answer our crystal ball question back from the double A double O conference. And that is Bob Ambrogi from the law next podcast and last night’s blog, Piers into his crystal ball and talks about the changes in the legal Regulatory Sandboxes. So we’ll hear from Bob and then we’ll go straight into our session with Laura Leopard on why when we’re leaving law. I am here in Denver WWL with Bob Ambrogi. My second favorite legal podcasts are out there in the whole world. Thanks for joining us.

Bob Ambrogi 2:46
Thanks, Greg, for having me. And as you know, you are my second favorite podcaster in the whole world.

Greg Lambert 2:51
And I appreciate it. So Bob brought you in and set you down to ask you our crystal ball question which is pull out your crystal ball kind of look into the legal industry, some aspect of it that you you’re interested in. And what are some things say in the next two to five years that you see are changes or challenges that people should be aware of?

Bob Ambrogi 3:13
I have to believe that the changes that are going to have the most impact on the legal profession over the next couple of years involve regulatory reform. And we’ve seen already more than the seed, I was gotta say the seeds but more than the seeds in Utah and Arizona where Utah has created the sort of regulatory sandbox. And Arizona has gone even farther and an accurate number of reforms that are allowing a greater range in terms of who can actually deliver legal services. So I think that the significance of that is in part that is certainly going to help address the access to justice issue. I think that’s why they’re trying to do these these initiatives in the first place. But ultimately, it’s really going to have an impact across all types of legal practices, as private companies get get involved in owning law firms or owning legal practices or delivering legal services. Whether you’re a low income client or a major corporate client, I think we’re going to see major changes come about as a result of that over the next few years.

Greg Lambert 4:20
Which states do you think are probably the most likely to test the waters on that next?

Bob Ambrogi 4:28
Well, that’s the good, that’s the $10,000 question, really, you know, when Utah and Arizona initiated their reforms in pretty short order, one after the other. And I remember talking at the time to the one of the justices from from Arizona about whether these were the dominoes that were going to start falling and all the other states, but the dominoes haven’t been falling. And in fact, just here at this convention, the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court was here, and I asked her during her keynote about why California seems to be stuck on this issue. I think early on everybody thought California would probably be the state that would lead the way on this. And of course, if California does then then a lot of states are going to follow because California is really probably the biggest state in terms of numbers of lawyers. And she gave a little bit of a evasive answer. I think, in a sense, she kind of attributed it to legislative bottlenecks relating to the fact that the state legislature has to approve attorneys dues every year. And they’re putting conditions on him that are making it impossible to carry forward some of these regulatory reforms. But so So California is probably not the next beyond that. It didn’t sound. Michigan has been talking a lot and other other states are working on this. I don’t know. And I’ve been so kind of surprised that it’s been slowed for a little bit of period here. But I do think over the next year or two, we’re going to start to see activity picking up again.

Greg Lambert 5:55
Okay, well, Bob, thanks for dropping by and talking to me. Yeah, always a pleasure.

Marlene Gebauer 5:58
We’d like to welcome Laura Leopard founder and CEO of Leopard Solutions. Laura, glad to have you here on The Geek in Review.

Laura Leopard 6:08
Well, thank you so much. I’m very happy to be here.

Greg Lambert 6:11
So Laura, Leopard Solutions is widely known in the industry for its monitoring and tracking of lawyers across the US and global markets. And I know, we deal with it a lot, because I do a lot with the lateral recruiting here, and our team loves the product. However, that to the side, what we really brought you on here was to discuss a trend that your team uncovered last year, toward the end of the year when it came to women lawyers who left legal practice and apparently didn’t return. So what type of data was your team collecting? And how did they come to this conclusion that women were leaving law and not coming back?

Laura Leopard 6:52
Well, at the end of 2021, we started preparing data for our urine Roundup, or we just tell everybody what happened in the last year. And we had a chart of ethnically diverse attorneys who had left the top 200. And we saw where they had landed and where they had not landed. Then we looked at the data for women. And we saw that there was a pretty wide gap between those two groups of women re entering big law, or law of any kind, because at that time, there was a really big number of women with an unknown quantity. And that was, they didn’t return to a law firm we cover we cover over 4200 law firms, they didn’t enter any of the 8000 companies that we cover in our in house database, they really just weren’t anywhere. So it really piqued our curiosity. And we decided, well, let’s see if we can find out. So I put a research team on going to look at those unknowns to see where they might have been where they might have gone. And I was happy to report later that they did a lot of them did return to a job in legal whether it was a company or academia or somewhere. It just took them a little while to do it. So little gap in that employment. But that’s what really piqued our interest to start looking more closely at that data.

Marlene Gebauer 8:26
So you launched a separate survey of these women who left specifically focusing on big law firms to gather insights on on what happened. And I know you sort of touched on that just now. But did you have any assumptions going into the survey? Of what happened? And did that hold true?

Laura Leopard 8:44
Well, as we looked at those numbers of women that we didn’t know what happened, I’m sure it was shocking. It was shocking. And I didn’t return to a top 200 firm, everybody’s pretty much, you know, said the same thing. They said, Oh, it’s the pandemic, oh, it’s children at home, they had to go take care of the children. And I said, Well, we really can’t assume that we really shouldn’t see if we could validate or invalidate that theory. And really, the only way we could do it was to do a survey. So we sent out a survey specifically trying to target women who had left a top law firm, and who would be willing to tell us about their experiences and why they left.

Greg Lambert 9:28
I know that, you know, we heard a lot through the pandemic. And you mentioned it just now that, you know, women were affected during the pandemic much, much worse than than it did their male counterparts. And in fact, sometimes it kind of cringe at this, but it was referred to as the she session rent for the recession. But for many women, you know, there was this whole idea that they were taking care of children, they were taking care of their elderly family members that and that was often cited is the reason that they were not returning to work was that what you found was that it was just that, or I’m assuming it’s much more than that?

Laura Leopard 10:09
Well, our data itself told us that there was not a she session, there was not a mass exodus of women from law firms, it just didn’t happen. But it was a very clever term that people continue to use for a long time, because it was was cute, but it just didn’t happen. And the women that took our survey, really left for the same reasons women have been leaving law firms for years. And that is a lack of support, lack of opportunity, lack of flexibility, and work life balance.

Marlene Gebauer 10:48
So focusing on that for a second, we all hear about law firm culture and how firms talk about culture as a selling point for recruitment for the women you surveyed. However, culture may not be quite the selling point that law firms think it is. What comments did you get from the women who left law firms about their frustration? And in the workplace?

Laura Leopard 11:13
Well, first of all, I just have to say that, you know, culture law firm culture is probably the most overused phrase, when people are trying to describe what their loved one What does that? What does that even mean? What does it mean exactly a great law firm culture, law, firm culture is seen in the eye of the beholder. And not everyone sees the same thing. Right? If they did, there would not be issues for women or ethnically diverse attorneys. I mean, really, what your law firm culture is, is truly seen by the people on the lowest totem pole of your law firm, the people in the upper echelon, they can have an ideal of what their culture is, but it really comes down to how they treat the people that work for them, what they require of them, what they’re praised for what they’re punished for. So according to the women who answered our survey, the culture at a lot of these top law firms is pretty dismal for women, it can be great for the people on the top. But for a lot of the people at the law firm that law firm, quote, unquote, culture isn’t working for them. And there’s a number of reasons for that. You know, let’s think about the smallest things right, a woman goes on maternity leave, and is taken off the partner track and put on the mommy track after that, she’s being punished for taking maternity leave is in essence, what what what just happened is that good law firm culture, they would never put that in a pamphlet. But the culture is determined by the actions the law firm takes. And if someone feels punished, by taking maternity leave, or family leave or not, you know, turning in the number of hours that they they felt that they should because they have something else going on in their life, that really points to a culture, that’s not going to be good for a lot of people.

Greg Lambert 13:15
There was one part of the survey that that really caught my eye. And that was the the issue around some of the associates who left am law 200 firms. The interesting thing is, and I think we’ve all kind of heard this over the past few years. But you know, I just want to really kind of stress this that, you know, coming out of law school, there is basically an equal there’s parity between women associates and male associates that are starting in the law firm. However, as you were going through your your data and going through some of the survey, you found out that when it comes to lateral hiring of associates, so these, you know, in the 234 to seven year range, all of a sudden that gender difference is strikingly apparent. What is happening to women in the lateral market that is causing such a disparity between again their male counterparts.

Laura Leopard 14:17
Well, it’s actually a tad more interesting in that because for the last three years, we have seen more women than men get hired by the top 200 law firms right out of law school. And it’s been a number that’s been growing in disparity each year. There are more women than men in college, there are more women than men in law schools. And now there is a trend of those firms hiring more women right out of law school. So they’re gaining in those numbers. They now have parity in the firm’s on the associate level, but they’re hiring more women than men on the entry level. But when it comes to law Lateral hiring women still fall behind they are hiring more male laterals. And why is that? That is a great question to ask the firm’s that is a great question. Are they not hiring women because of bias because of unconscious bias? I’m sure there’s a lot of people that really couldn’t even tell you. Now, when we get to partner numbers, and I think that was that was a question as well. But

Marlene Gebauer 15:28
this Yeah, I was gonna ask is, is it the same for partner numbers?

Laura Leopard 15:31
It’s even worse, the disparity between women, lateral hires and male lateral hires is vast. Now, we know that there are certainly you know, more male partners than women, but they’re not making a concerted effort to hire women partner laterals, and they are lagging behind in hiring female laterals, even on the associate level, it’s a choice, it’s a choice. And when you get to that hiring partner, when you get to that management committee, that’s going to make the choice, you’re going to have a lot of really talented people to choose from, a lot of them just aren’t choosing the women in the same kind of numbers that they’re choosing the

Greg Lambert 16:18
Yeah, there was a comment you made on on a webinar you did a couple of months ago, that also stuck with me. And that was when it comes to lateral associates that when an associate is brought in as a lateral, they tend to be promoted to partner at a higher percentage than the people that are there at the firm and just kind of start there and work their way to try to try to be partner, the way you kind of put it was, it’s almost like a double whammy for women. Because being recruited less on the lateral front also then results in less women actually making that leap to partnership, as well. Just curious that other people that you surveyed, are women, for some reason not entering the lateral market to the same rate as their male counterparts? Or what’s some of the reasoning, that the number numbers don’t seem to be there?

Laura Leopard 17:16
I don’t think it’s they were, you know, in the year that we surveyed, and we looked at 2020, they were calling everybody to lateral right, everybody, everybody we’ve had as your neighbor down the street, but they were still consistently hiring more men than women. And about that, that, you know, partnership track that we we spoke up, yes, it’s very, it’s very difficult for women, but it’s very difficult overall. I mean, we have a report that shows the days to partnership for every firm. And there’s a big difference between those that enter as a entry level hire and those that come in as a lateral. So the number of days has increased to a dramatic degree for those who enter the firm as an entry level attorney. And it has increased somewhat for those who entered a firm laterally, but not quite as much. I mean, the it is grown 147% or some crazy thing like that since 2012. So the road to partnership has become longer, it’s become harder. And our data shows that it’s easier for those to make partner who move laterally into a firm. And for women, they have that extra problem now and that is not as many women laterals are being hired. So they’re not getting the opportunity, you know, on that level either.

Greg Lambert 18:49
I know for sure that the time from Fall associate to making partner. I think when I first came in it, there was like a five kind of a five year mark. And then there was a six and now seven now eight. And then on top of that, you’ve also got, you know, non equity partner versus equity partner. And how long does it take?

Marlene Gebauer 19:11
It was just two more steps in between.

Greg Lambert 19:15
That’s right. One of the other things that you mentioned was that in 2021, there was a significant increase in younger women attorneys suddenly leaving amla, 200 firms. So what kind of numbers are you seeing? And what what’s the reasoning behind this uptick and departures of younger women attorneys?

Laura Leopard 19:36
Well, what we saw in 2021 was yes, there was a large uptick from that age group, which was 25 to 30 that exited a top 200 firm. But on the reverse side, there was also an uptick in that same age group of them re entering a top 200 firm. So those younger women are actually really making a career move, they left one top 200 farm and moved into another top 200 farm, the group that actually didn’t fare as well, returning into a top 200 Firm was that next age group, which was 31 to 35. And I think, you know, we all sort of know in our head, that’s the local wisdom has always been, it’s that mid career associate that leaves, it’s that that’s when women leaves mid career. And this data really, really bears that out. So those younger women are moving for a career move they moat, you know, a good number of them stayed within the top 200 Farms, but that next group 31 to 35, a larger number of them did not to return to a top two. So mid career, that’s where the problem really seems to be.

Marlene Gebauer 20:51
So I want to read something from your report that really speaks to the barriers that women lawyers and law firms face in advancing their careers. And I will warn our listeners, there’s some triggering language in here, at least it was triggering for me. But this is the quote, women lawyers have substantially less access to the building blocks needed for long term success in firm practice far more than men and simply on account of their gender. Women experienced demeaning comments, lack access to business developmental opportunities, have been overlooked for advancement, lack access to sponsors, and suffer other behaviors and firms that diminish their chances for reaching the same level of success as their male colleagues. That’s a pretty powerful statement on what you found through the survey results. Why is it that law is still so bias when it comes to how it treats its women lawyers over how its treats its male lawyers?

Laura Leopard 21:51
Well, that’s yeah, million dollar question.

Marlene Gebauer 21:55
Well, that’s yeah, $24,000 question.

Laura Leopard 21:57
I topped you with with my million dollars. But I think that particular quote may have come from an article that we also quoted, which was walking out the door, which was a really great article. But the women that answered our survey echoed all of those comments. As a matter of fact, when we, when we did the survey, it the results were so depressing, that we really had to sit on for a while. And we had asked a number of women that that answered the survey, you know, can we reach out to you and talk. And we did, we didn’t end up using their comments, because they were so raw and tough, they were tough to hear. That’s when we decided to reach out to women who had succeeded who had made partner in a top 200 firm, and see what their firms are doing or what helped them to succeed. But as for those comments, and as for all of all of those terrible things that we heard and read that came out from the survey, for the law firms, in my opinion, it’s a choice, it is a choice, it is a conscious choice, you can declare that you are a great workplace for women and ethnic minorities, and you’ve got great culture. But until you take really concrete steps to ensure that you’ve got a great workplace, for women, it won’t be because fighting bias is hard. Fighting unconscious bias is even harder, especially if you don’t know it exists. It takes education, it takes effort. And it takes will. But then once you apply all of those, you can really make changes structurally in your firm and make changes in hearts and minds. And that’s where a lot of these changes have to take place.

Marlene Gebauer 23:55
So I wanted to follow up on that you had mentioned that you reached out to women who succeeded was Was there any indication as to what their organizations did, right? That that helped them or was it simply they just kind of muscled through.

Laura Leopard 24:14
I’m sure there are many women out there that muscled through, has literally, you know, especially before we’ve had, we see some of these women empowerment programs pop up in firms, but for the women that we talked to, I was so happy to hear, you know what’s going on at the law firms. But let me also say one thing, most of the great stories we’re going to hear about what’s going on in law firms that help women succeed. We’re all started by women, and most of them are run by women. So women supporting women makes a huge difference all across the board for women in law firms. But we heard from you know, people at at Lowenstein about using the amplify Haitian strategy, we learned about, you know, programs that help women make equity partner. There are some really great programs out there, that women who have walked this path helped develop, to help put a hand down and help their sisters up. Because it’s tough, and they’re not getting it from the men, they have to get it from somewhere, or they’re all going to fail. So women stepped up to help other women. And that was a another really exciting part of what we discovered.

Greg Lambert 25:36
Excellent. One of the things that I came away with the survey was that you developed 11 ways in which law firms can can tear down these barriers that exist for women lawyers. So I just want to take some time right now and just walk through some examples that you have and walk through those 11 tasks that law firms can be doing. And the first one is to let women speak. So what do you mean by letting women speak?

Laura Leopard 26:08
Well, there are some great examples about you know, how women get talked over in different meetings, they raise their hand, they don’t get called on. And over at Lowenstein, they really adopted something that they did during the Obama administration, women in the room saw that they weren’t being heard. So they banded together. And when someone talked over a woman, they would say, that’s great, but but let’s let Cheryl finish her point. Or, you know, someone comes up with a great idea, a woman puts it forth. No one pays attention to it. 10 minutes later, a man says the same thing. And everybody says, Oh, it’s a brilliant idea. Well, they have their team in the room, and they say, Yes, Bob, that is a great idea. And it was also great when Cheryl brought that up. So let’s really look at that. Right? So it does a couple of things. It makes people notice what they done. And it makes people listen to what those women have to say. So that’s a really great strategy.

Marlene Gebauer 27:15
Okay, so So number two was give women opportunities. And I don’t know, I imagine this is more complicated than it sounds. Since I know firms sort of struggle with this in terms of how to staff different matters and things like that.

Laura Leopard 27:32
Exactly. Well, it’s complicated. And I want to say while this applies, and this survey was all about women, some of the strategies also can be applied to those ethnically diverse attorneys at the farm too, to make sure they’re getting the same kind of opportunities. So we talked to Christy Tosh Crider at Baker, Donaldson. And she heads the healthcare litigation group there. And she’d started the woman’s initiative at her firm. And they also started a program to help women get to equity partnership, to really take their hand and tell them what they have to do and what they should do and who they should work with. They really just lead them through the whole process. And over at Lowenstein, they have a different process Elaine Hughes told us about, they have a centralized database, where they can actually measure who is getting what opportunity who hasn’t worked with this particular partner yet, and who should be given the opportunity to do so. So once you measure and track who is getting opportunities at the firm, you can begin to see very clearly who isn’t. And then they take steps to make sure that those people get the same opportunities that others have been offered.

Greg Lambert 28:53
Step three, you have give women a seat at the table. And we have a saying around here that we borrowed is if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. And so I imagine that and I think this probably goes back to something that you said earlier. And that is the successes that you read and hear about typically are a result of women led initiatives where they were given the power. And just on a side note i There was a survey or a study that came out four or five years ago that said that the more women you have on the compensation committee, the higher the compensation is for women, that there’s a direct result. So imagine this, this is in that same vein.

Laura Leopard 29:40
Absolutely, absolutely. Of course, of course, that would be true. But there’s also other things that happen at the firm and decisions that get made. And women should be in the room for those decisions. You know, how they deal with maternity leave, how they deal with issues that affect women, whether it’s what provider They go for for health care, or anything else, if a man at the farm is making decisions that are going to affect women’s health, women’s lives, women’s responsibilities, that really sort of has a sense of paternalism to it, right. And they also may not really understand what those women need, they may think they do. Or they may think it’s the same as for the men, but it’s really not. So having a seat at the table that will help men make better decisions for their female employees is really, really important. Because what what will that lead to, that will also lead to better retention of those employees? So having a seat at the table is incredibly important.

Marlene Gebauer 30:43
Number four is don’t tolerate sexism, which again, sounds pretty straightforward and clear cut, but I imagine is not I think, you know, you talk to a bunch of different people as to what sexism is or isn’t, and you’ll get just as many different answers. So, you know, how how, how does the firm approach that?

Laura Leopard 31:10
Well, there were several types of sexism, right, that we’ve talked about the microaggressions, and all those small things and unconscious bias, which we’ll talk about later, but blatant out in the open sexism that can be stopped. I mean, I really didn’t

Marlene Gebauer 31:29
still happening, or are people more steroids sophisticated about

Laura Leopard 31:34
a survey that said, it is still happening today, and there’s only one reason why it is, and that’s because it’s tolerated. If it was not tolerated, it would not exist. So more than any, this is, the easiest thing to stop is that overt sexism, when you hear it, you call it out? When you hear it, you take that attorney aside, and you say, I never want to hear you speak that way. Again, it has to be nipped in the bud and it has to be stopped right there. And it would be great if other people saw it happen, because they would know, that’s not tolerated here. And that’s really the only way to deal with it is just to make a choice to end it.

Greg Lambert 32:17
It’s gonna be interesting, because we’ve mentioned this a lot on on the show over the past couple of years. And that is, with the Gen X, that they tend to be the ones who will call out this type of behavior, right on the spot, right? In public, Gen Gen Z, I’m sorry, Gen Z. And, and so I think it’s going to be interesting over the next few years, as more and more Gen Z’s come into the workforce, that you’re going to see more of this, you know, calling out things right on the spot. So that’s going to be a shock to a lot of the senior senior people.

Laura Leopard 32:57
And it would be a shock, but what would really put a nail in this coffin is if leadership didn’t tolerate it, and they were the ones that spoke up. That’s what will stop it. You know, they might be afraid of some sort of lawsuit when Gen Z says it. And they might say something in private that they don’t say in public. But if they, if they really wanted to stop it, it’s the leadership that would stop it and say, We don’t tolerate that. And that that group, I do want to talk about later that Gen Z and millennials as well, there’s going to be a number of surprises for law firms, I think. Yeah,

Marlene Gebauer 33:37
that’d be in the crystal ball.

Greg Lambert 33:39
So number five was uncover unconscious bias. And before I let you answer this one, there’s a lot going on not just in law firms, but I’d say culturally across especially the United States, that when you say unconscious bias, people get very defensive on that, because I think they see it primarily as it’s bad behavior. And, and I don’t, you know, that’s calling me a bad person, you’re calling me a bad person. And so when a law firm looks to change, and find out what kind of unconscious bias that they have, what do you see is a way to kind of get over that hump of unconscious bias means I’m a bad person, and I’m not a bad person, therefore, I don’t have unconscious bias.

Laura Leopard 34:30
Right? Well, I think it’s safe to say that we all have unconscious biases of many things. But it’s when you bring that into the light that you become aware of it and then you can start to address it. So when we talked to Christy Tosh, Crider Baker Donelson, they have groups they have people that come in and work with people in leadership to train them on their unconscious biases and how they can work to overcome them. But the first thing they have to do is recognize that they’re there. It doesn’t make them a bad person, it’s something everyone on the planet has. But in this case, in this particular instance, that unconscious bias could really lead to you not promoting a woman over a man, you not hiring a female lateral over a male, lateral, and training and then a consistent strategy, you know, that follows that are really critical to help firms overcome this issue. And this is a big issue. And again, this really isn’t just about women, you could apply the same thing to those ethnically diverse attorneys. So uncovering unconscious bias would be a real help to the firm. And there are some great training programs out there. But leadership has to do it. It’s not just all the underlings leadership has to do it and be aware of it.

Marlene Gebauer 36:03
Number six was offering equal paternity care. Now, is the thought that this is going to like level the playing fields, you know, moms and dads get equal time, do you think it will? If it’s offered, will it actually be taken?

Laura Leopard 36:22
Well, that’s, that’s, that’s part of the problem. Right? So it is about leveling the playing field, in a sense, it’s about destigmatizing, taking maternity leave. And if everyone took it, if men took it, if women took it, it really would help to de stigmatize that maternity leave, right? But it can’t just be associates. So and there’s, there’s a lot of partners have to take it as well, right? So there’s all kinds of leave, there’s maternity leave, there’s maternity leave. But then there’s, there’s time when you have an ill parent, or you have something else that you have to take leave for. It’s very important that leadership, take these types of leaves, because that signals to everyone else at the firm, that it’s okay to do it, that you’re not going to be punished for taking it. I had a call today with an attorney who said, when she started at the firm, you know, she was she wasn’t at the point where she needed maternity leave, but she hoped to in the upcoming year. And when she saw a female partner do it, she felt Oh, okay, then I’m not going to be I’m not going to be penalized for taking it. So I’ll feel okay about taking it in the future. So much of all of these things depends on leadership, because leaders are supposed to lead right? And they their actions can signal what’s okay, what’s approved, what’s normal at a firm, if they’re taking paternity leave, if a male partner is taking maternity leave, then they know that their associates are going to know it’s okay to take paternity leave. And this is the same of course, for female partners and women associates. It’s very important that leadership, do this as well. And let everyone know that it’s okay to do it.

Greg Lambert 38:22
This next one, I know we’ve done a lot more on this since the pandemic, but it’s not necessarily wasn’t created during the pandemic, and that was to offer flex time schedules and remote work. So how does that help?

Laura Leopard 38:40
Well, women had been asking to work from home forever, forever. And the answer was always no, no, no, no, no, no. And it took a pandemic, to change that. So here we are. Now we can now we can all work from home. Of course, there are a lot of law firms that are trying to you know, reverse that now put that genie back in the bottle. But everyone really loves it because it affords them a bit of a life. But that’s not the end all be all. Because if you’re working 85 hours a week, and you’re working from home, you can wave to your family across the room. And that’s about it because you don’t have time to do much more. And that’s where flex time comes in. And there are not a lot of firms offering flex time in a way that can really work for women, and people that are having, you know, family difficulties too. But when I talk to Molly singer over at Gibson Dunn, she had a great story. She said she realized that she was going to have to do something, just so she could manage her life and her family in her in her kids. And she went to her Managing Partner, and she said, I think I’m gonna either I’m gonna have to leave or I really do need to request to go part time and He said, I would rather have you 50% of the time than most of those associates out there 100% of the time. So she went on a flex time schedule, she made partner while on a flex time schedule. And every year, there are people that make partners on that flex time schedule, it’s about the work, it’s about the work that you deliver. And it allows her to continue to have a good family life and good home life. That is an exciting story. That is an exciting story. You know, working from home, yes, we all like that. But there’s, there’s a bit more to it. And working, you know, an insane number of hours while you’re at home, might let you enjoy that home a little bit. But there are times whether it’s for childcare, if it’s taking care of a sick parent, taking care of a sick spouse, there are times that anyone, you know, might need that ability just to dial down the work hours. And again, if a partner did the same thing, that would signal to everyone else at the firm, that it was okay to do that. Promoting people, while they’re on flex time is a great signal that you’re not going to be punished, you know, for moving to a flex time schedule. So that was a very exciting story. That

Marlene Gebauer 41:19
is, that’s excellent. Yeah.

Greg Lambert 41:20
And, and on top of that, they were enabled to keep her they didn’t have to replace her which in you mentioned that, you know, when it comes to losing attorneys in recruiting and bringing in and training new attorneys, that there’s a huge dollar amount that goes into that. And so I imagine allowing flex time allows you to pay someone a little less, but you know, be able to retain them. So I think, you know, it’s one of those things where I’m just surprised that we haven’t done more of that.

Laura Leopard 41:57
I agree, I agree. Retention of women associates, ethnically diverse associates, all associates retention is not, there’s not good, there are millions and millions and millions and millions and millions of dollars lost every year with bad retention. And they spend a lot more money to get the next group to come back in to fill those slots. And if they don’t stay, they go do the same thing again. So there’s a huge cycle there of spending all kinds of money to replace people that they should have held on to in the beginning, you can’t replace a mid level person who exits a firm with someone coming right out of law school, you’re gonna have to go find someone with that experience, pay out the wazoo for it, and then hope their integration and they can bring those clients, that’s, that’s a lot, that’s a lot, so much better ask to keep those people that are that are serving you well, and to keep them in whatever manner that you can flex time, let them work from home, give them what they need. And then you don’t get into that horrible money churn, replacing people who left.

Marlene Gebauer 43:12
So the next one on the list is acknowledging women’s successes. And I love this one, because this, this really is simple. You know, it’s like, you really don’t like that, that doesn’t require a lot of money to do. It doesn’t require, you know, it just just requires being thoughtful, really. So I was happy to see it’s like, you know, pretty much anybody can do this. So

Laura Leopard 43:35
well, they can. But even during our webinar, when we had, you know, we were talking about this and saying, you know, women are notoriously bad for saying, Yep, I did that. Yep, I did that. There were women that were typing in the chat. And I said, I get punished when I do that everyone thinks on you know, not a good person than I do that. So there’s still this stigma men can do it easily. Yep, I did that everybody Pat’s him on the back. It doesn’t seem to be the same experience for women. But overall, what we’ve learned from a few law firms, was that clients are now deriving some accountability on that front. And they want to know who exactly is working on their matters and what they’re doing? Is it a diverse group of people, be it gender diverse or ethnically diverse? So that is really sort of forcing the issue. And if those clients find out that you are not attributing women for their work, or you know, those who are diverse for their work, then they’ll they’ll just pick up their ball and go to another law firm and start playing. So this kind of accountability, I think, will really push firms to make sure that women are acknowledged for all of their participation. In all of their work in matters, it’s kind of a shame that you have to have clients do it. But it’s something that can really drive this home to affirm, because again, it’s all about, it’s about money. So they’ll pick up and their ears will pick up and they listen to that. But it’s something that’s really important. And now it’s really important to their clients. So hopefully that will make it really important for the firm to them to.

Greg Lambert 45:23
Yeah, one of the quickest ways to drive change in a law firm is to have it come from the client. So

Marlene Gebauer 45:31
tied to money.

Greg Lambert 45:33
Number nine on the list is ensure fairness and promotions, which I mean, on its face sounds very simple. But how does a firm ensure the fairness of promotion?

Laura Leopard 45:44
Well, you know, again, it’s, it’s about that support, it’s about making sure that people understand these people really deserve to be promoted. For that, you have to look at some of the other points to make sure that, you know, what they’ve done has been acknowledged that the work that they’ve done, the clients that they brought in the money that they’ve made, the firm has all been acknowledged. And there have been some unequal standards when it comes to promotions. And when it comes to lateral hiring as well, that’s something that you really have to have, how can I say this, you really have to put more thought into you your promotion process, and to make sure that it’s not biased in any way against women, or those who are ethnically diverse. And they have to look at all the data points that we’ve talked about so far, and acknowledge their successes, listen to what they have to say, all of those things are a part of it, and also to be aware of the numbers in their firms. So when we look at the number of women partners at a firm, we get an overall number for the top 200 is like 27% or something? Well, for some firms, that’s a number that’s way larger than the number of female partners at their particular firm. That’s sort of the danger of averages, right? It can make things look much better overall, you know, at some firms, because that number is much greater. So look, within your firm, how many women partners do you have? How many women do you promote? Because I have to tell you, this is going to be something that’s that’s really going to affect where women go in the future. When young women coming out of law school, say, You got two women partners, and you’ve got 120 male partners, this doesn’t look like the firm for me, you know, you only promoted one woman in the last three years as opposed to all the men that you have promoted. Those are all types of data that we’ve worked with law schools to they have access to this data. And anybody can look on a firm website and see how many female partners that they have. It’s not like it’s a great secret, right? People are going to make decisions based on who you have in your firm in partnership. And that’s something that they really have to remember around promotion time, it’s gonna affect more than they think.

Marlene Gebauer 48:21
So we talked a little bit earlier about this sort of gap and hiring women laterals, so that of course is a recommendation is to hire more women laterals. Did this survey or your discussions with people? Did this uncover any particular reasons? Or difficulties maybe the firm’s had in doing this or was it? I know you’re laughing? I was like it was it? Was it simply that? Nope, they just didn’t do it?

Laura Leopard 48:51
Well, I think that’s part of it, frankly, because I think a lot of times when it comes down to the final choices, people like to make choices that are familiar to them. And if you have a male hiring partner, hiring a man is just more comfortable and familiar. And that’s true. But there are real things that you can do again, Christy Tosh Crider over at Baker Donaldson, you know, again, Women Helping Women right when they hired their first sort of recruitment head for lateral attorneys, she went right over there and said, Let’s talk about how we can hire more women, and how we can find more women laterals to hire. And I think too, we it goes back to some of the other points that we had. They may not even realize that that’s what they’re doing. But that’s what they’re doing. So making sure that they understand their numbers. Not that not that this is a quota system, but understand who you hire in the past. And if you’re looking at two candidates that have virtually the same qualifications, virtually the same amount of business They can bring your firm. Is there a reason why you’re choosing the man over the woman? That’s really sort of the bottom line. And that’s what they have to kind of ferret out. And women at the firm can help ask those questions. If you have a woman on the promotion committee, what does that do? That helps to ask the question, why aren’t we promoting women? So giving that those women a seat at the table? You know, and over again, Christy Tosh Crider, they’re doing such great things. She actually built that women to equity program to help women, you know, make partner, but she had to do it, because it wasn’t being done. And had to build an extra highway to get those women on to get them to that track. Well, making sure that your lateral hiring team knows that you are interested in hiring women. That’s step one. Why don’t you look for some women that could also fill this role? It’s the same thing they did with diverse candidates. Why? Because clients were saying, why don’t you have more diverse people in your law firm? And then all of a sudden they said, let’s go find diverse candidates? Well, they should do the same thing for women. Why not look for women? Why not look for men, and then judge on their qualifications, but be aware that they’re not being hired at your firm at a great rate. Or just be aware that you need to look at all of the options in front of you.

Greg Lambert 51:28
And last but not least, the final point was to focus on mentoring. So what kind of mentoring do law firms need to do to help other women attorneys get success?

Laura Leopard 51:42
Well, they just they need to do it. First of all, there’s a lot of firms that say they have a mentorship program, you’re assigned, you know, a partner. So once or twice a year, you might hear from him, how’s it going? How’s it going? That’s really not mentorship, right? You really have to have sort of a structured program for mentorship. And over at Gibson Dunn, you know, Molly Senger told us a great story about the mentorship program over there, she was given an appellate partner to work with, and very important partner, very big partner in the firm. She had a really silly question, she had to ask him like what color the paper should she use his appellate work to file. And she could go ask him without fear, she can go ask him and not worry about feeling foolish in front of him. And he was tremendously helpful to her all throughout her career. Over at Baker Donaldson, they actually have two mentorship programs, they have one that the firm sets up for everyone in the firm. And they have a separate one just for women, for Women Helping Women at the firm. And let’s face it, when you go to law school, you come out, you don’t know what you’re you don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t know, you don’t know how to do your job. And you can be at a law firm for several years before you realize that you’re supposed to be putting together a book of business, what what are you talking about? I’ve been busy working on all these other matters. I’m not developing my own business. Now I got to do it. All of these things need to be told to them at the right. So they can really prepare for the long term, right? Yes, you need to do your work. But at the same time, you need to be cultivating people that you could bring in as clients. There’s all kinds of things that people know, because they’ve spent a lifetime in law that they could impart to people to help them be successful. Every year, they hire people from the best and brightest schools and the best GPAs. And they get them in and then they say good luck is sink or swim. Well, you want everybody to swim, you want everybody to swim. You don’t want you know, people drowning in the shallow end. But that’s what happens year after year after year, because they’re not getting enough support at the firm. And if they had a real robust mentorship program, there would be fewer deaths in the shallow end, and there would be a lot more people swimming to the finish line.

Marlene Gebauer 54:14
I like that, like everybody, you want everybody to swim. Because I think traditionally it’s been, you know, let’s see who floats and that was sort of the way of determining who stays and who didn’t. But I think that approach is somewhat outdated, you know, given what we’re talking about here, so

Laura Leopard 54:35
And given the costs involved, right? Involved of losing those people are higher than partnership realizes.

Marlene Gebauer 54:43
You’ve taken the time to make these choices and say okay, these are the people and you know, if you’ve done your job appropriately, and let’s assume you have like you want to nurture all of them, you want them all because that’s just better for you and them

Laura Leopard 55:00
Exactly. It’s a better human decision, and it’s a better business decision.

Marlene Gebauer 55:04
That’s right. Win win. So Laura, we ask all our guests to look into their crystal ball and tell us what they see in the next two to five years. So I’ll ask, you know, what do you see, in the next two to five years when it comes to women leaving the law? You know, what are the changes and challenges you see for the industry in the next few years?

Laura Leopard 55:28
Well, there was something in mentioned by a few women that took our survey. And that was, I realized, I didn’t want to be partner. And there was another comment that said, as an associate, I was working tremendous hours all to become a partner. And I finally realized, what am I get? I work the same amount of hours, if not more, and I have administrative duties piled on top of it, it’s not worth it. So this is what women are saying, now they’re seeing it and they’re leaving. They’re leaving in greater numbers than men are, right? You also have that Gen Z. And you’ve got that millennial group, too, that are beginning to say, yeah, that’s not what I want. That’s not what I want. It’s really a bad bargain. You come in and you work yourself to death for a number of years, maybe you’ll make partner, maybe you won’t, that road is getting longer and longer and steeper and steeper every year. And then when you make it, what do you get? The pandemic did a number of things, right? For one thing, it gave us that remote work that we talked about. It also gave us signing documents on DocuSign, we’ve got courts that are doing cases over zoom, none of that would have happened and for another 50 years and law firms, because they would have resisted it all that all the way so they were forced to make that change. I think they’re going to be forced to make some other changes as a group of young attorneys, and female attorneys say, yeah, it’s not worth it. So the road that’s laid out in front of them is so unappealing, and so unappetizing, that they’re not going to stay. So they’re really going to lose that workhorse associate, that’s going to be their through their career to hopefully make partner. The big problem here is the billable hour. I mean, let’s just say it right out. That’s why you have to work 85 hours a week. That’s why you have to work these insane hours, it’s that billable hour, the billable hour is making the tippy top partnership, a lot of money. But at the same time, the billable hour is costing in ROI on hiring for entry levels for laterals, it’s really costing them more money than they realize, and the money that they could save by retention, those dollars spend the exact same way, then all the dollars that come in from the billable hour, they spend the same exact way. And that’s something that they’re going to have to understand. I was at a seminar just a few months ago when I talked to a group of mid sized law firms. And we actually had one of the managing partners on a webinar with us talking about, you know, now all we do is alternative fee arrangements. Our clients love it, it has made such a tremendous difference in our firm, and getting clients to use us and also also in retention. But for them, it was a huge moneymaker. Because it you know who else hates the billable hour? clients, clients really hate the billable hour. So this is something that everybody hates, yet, we keep it because a small group at the top of the pyramid think they’re making a lot of money on it. But if they really considered the overall picture, the billable hour is actually costing them a lot. So unless my crystal ball is completely wrong, there’s going to have to be some changes within how a law firm is built. You know, when we looked at the numbers leaving, right we talked about this is this whole thing has been about women leading law. So 35 point 62% of women that left a top 200 Law Firm rejoined a top 200 Law Firm. Well, 39 point 35% of men the same. So if you look at the opposite side of that, that says about 60% of men who leave a top 200 firm, don’t go back to one, about 64% of women that left the top 200 Don’t go back to one. That’s a problem. That’s a problem. And that’s one that’s going to become more evident over time. And I hope they hope to have the courage to do something about it.

Greg Lambert 1:00:00
You and a bunch of other people are hoping that as well. So well, Laura Leopard from Leopard Solutions, I want to thank you very much for coming in and talking to us today. Before we let you go, can you let the listeners know where they can find out more about what you’re doing there at leopard solutions?

Laura Leopard 1:00:17
Of course, you can visit our website,, you can also get a copy of this white paper there, along with other studies that we’ve done, and it’s free, you just go and download it, and you can read all of this material, it’s really eye opening. And I we’re gonna keep talking about it. We’re gonna keep looking at it. We’re gonna keep reporting on it. And we’re gonna hope that we see some change.

Greg Lambert 1:00:41
Well, thank you very much, Laura.

Marlene Gebauer 1:00:42
Thank you.

Laura Leopard 1:00:43

Marlene Gebauer 1:00:47
So we want everybody to swim. You know? I mean, it’s yes, it’s that easy. You know, we just we got to look out for other people, we got to be aware of what, in our business culture, our culture at large, our personal behavior is thwarting that.

Greg Lambert 1:01:09
Yeah. And one of the things that I think Laura stressed on this was even though this survey was focused on women attorneys, and especially in the amlaw200, firm that it has application for everyone. I mean, there there are things in here that are just plain common sense when it comes to working with other people, especially when you’re on a track for promotion over a number of years. And so I think there’s a lot in in this for everyone to learn from. Exactly. So thanks again to Laura leopard from leopard solutions for coming on the show. And again, we’ll have links out to the website and to the survey so that you can learn more.

Marlene Gebauer 1:01:54
And thanks to all of you for taking the time to listen to The Geek in Review podcast. If you’ve enjoyed the show, share it with a colleague. We’d love to hear from you. So reach out to us on social media. I can be found at @gebauerm on Twitter.

Greg Lambert 1:02:07
And I can be reached @glambert on Twitter.

Marlene Gebauer 1:02:10
Or you can leave us a voicemail on The Geek in Review Hotline at 713-487-7270 and as always, the music here is from Jerry David DeCicca Thank you, Jerry.

Greg Lambert 1:02:21
Thanks, Jerry. All right, Marlene, I will talk with you later.

Marlene Gebauer 1:02:24
All right, bye bye.