Men, Women Lawyers Look for Different Things in Firms: Survey (Corrected)

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

When it comes to choosing a legal employer, lawyers consider the firm reputation first and foremost, according to a new survey. But female lawyers are less impressed by traditional measures—like courtroom wins or blue-chip clients that firms usually tout—and look closely at the kind of people they will be working with as colleagues instead.

Although the rankings of most desirable firms were not disclosed publicly, the survey by Acritas, a legal management consulting firm, found that women lawyers rated firms differently than male lawyers.

The top seven firms selected by men were all different from those selected by woman, save one—Latham & Watkins.

At the top for women was international firm Hogan Lovells; for men, it was Latham & Watkins.

“Women rate the people in the firm as significantly more important as a reason for being attracted to a potential new firm,” said Lisa Hart Shepherd, chief executive of Acritas. The consulting firm agreed to disclose limited findings to highlight the differences between what men and women lawyers value in law firms.

Latham, ranked highly last year, found itself slightly lower among women at number five.

The survey is the second annual effort by Acritas to gauge top lawyer sentiment about their places of work. It found that “women put ‘people’ in second place, whereas men put the strength of the practice area they work in in second place,” Shepherd explained.

Those responding were what Acritas calls 1,735 “stand-out” lawyers globally. Of those, about 20 percent were women. Respondents came from 51 countries, including 474 lawyers in the United States. 88 percent were partners. Participants were recommended on the basis of the quality of their work by in-house counsel from companies worldwide.

The survey also revealed lawyers’ widespread dissatisfaction with their employment. One in five said they were thinking about changing to a different firm.

The top three reasons for dissatisfaction were the beliefs that the compensation system was not fair and transparent; that they were not valued; and that the level of compensation was incorrect, Shepherd said.

“Lawyers tend to be very brand conscious and gravitate to prestige firms, but when they get there they find they really want different things like a more collaborative culture and opportunities to progress,” Shepherd said.

Firms need to do a better job of showing “what it’s like to work there as well as the reasons why a lawyer might be attracted to the firm,” Shepherd said.

“Potential talent needs to know what your firm offers that is different, above and beyond your market brand and practice capabilities,” she added.

Like clients who no longer rely so strictly on prestige choosing a law firm to represent them, Shepherd predicted that top legal talent also may begin look at firms differently and “possibly open their eyes to a broader range of firms.”

(Corrected to more accurately reflect Latham’s change in rank in sixth paragraph)

To contact the reporters on this story: Elizabeth Olson at egolson1@gmail.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com