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Yale Law Women’s much-anticipated annual list of top law firms for gender equality and family friendliness is out. This year, however, it’s no longer a simple top 10 firm list.

Instead, the list has gotten more complicated, longer (almost 30 firms listed) and arguably more tedious. “Winning” firms are now slotted into various categories, ranging from firm structure (hiring practices), training, promotion and leadership, part-time availability and so on. You get the idea.

I won’t list all the winning firms in all the categories but I’ll give you a taste. (For the complete report, click here.)

Women in leadership:

  • Latham & Watkins
  • Morgan, Lewis & Bockius
  • Ropes & Gray
  • Sidley Austin

Diverse partnership:

  • Morrison & Foerster
  • Munger, Tolles & Olson
  • Steptoe & Johnson

Flexible work options:

  • Hogan Lovells
  • Littler Mendelson
  • Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe
  • Perkins Coie

Advancement of part-time lawyers:

  • Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel
  • Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe
  • Ropes & Gray
  • Winston & Strawn

Few of the recognized firms on the coveted Yale list are shockers. (As in previous years, the survey covered Vault Law 100 firms and includes data from Yale Law School alumni of all genders.)

But what’s new this year was information about the percentage of firms that still require mandatory arbitration clauses or nondisclosure agreements covering allegations of sexual assault or sexual misconduct as a condition of employment. Let me cut to the chase and tell you that, despite all the #MeToo outrage, a majority of firms require them.

Vivia ChenAlso new this year was that data was collected on women of color and others who identify as LGBTQ+. “It was important for us to get a fuller picture of equity along dimensions of race, gender identity and sexual orientation and incorporate these metrics into our honors,” says Anna Kaul, a rising 3L, who worked on the report. (The winning firms in the LGBTQ+ category are Allen & Overy; Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft; Jenner & Block; and Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton.)

But back to my original issue: Why are Yale Women dispensing with that nice, simple top 10 list? Is this an admission that there is no such thing as the best firm or firms for women?

“Individual firms excel in different areas, which was part of our rationale for disaggregating the awards this year,” explains Sarah Baldinger, a rising 2L who worked on the survey, adding that this new approach is more accurate and “shows the complexity of these issues.”

“Attorneys have different needs and preferences, and some firms may be a better fit than others,” adds Kaul.

In other words, firms that give you maximum flexibility and better work/life balance might not be the places where women have the best odds at equity partnership. Fair enough, as long as the terms are clear.

And what else is on the wish list for this select group?

Besides wishing the pace of progress speeds up, Kaul adds this: “We urge firms to be transparent in regard to compensation. It is impossible for attorneys to make informed career choices when they are battling opaque compensation policies and potential retribution for speaking about pay.”

Well, I guess that means firms with those infamous black boxes won’t be getting many of these Yale women.


Contact Vivia Chen at On Twitter: @lawcareerist.