WILEF’s Gold Standard Certification given to 44 US law firms

The Women In Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF) has awarded 44 US law firms Gold Standard Certification this year.

WILEF awards the status to major firms in the USA who meet more than half of the criteria relating to, among others, the proportion of women who are equity partners, heads of department and/or practice group leaders, and who rank among their most highly compensated partners.

The figure of 44 marks a significant increase in the number of firms achieving the certification this year, up from 31 last year. According to Elizabeth Anne "Betiayn" Tursi, WILEF’s global chair, this growth in number “demonstrates that women are an integral part of success in today’s challenging environment, which these firms recognise”.

This large increase comes a year after WILEF stiffened the criteria for Gold Standard Certification. Among the new criteria are those relating to diversity, such as the requirement of 7 per cent of women in a firm being "of colour" and 3.5 per cent identifying as LGBT.

Libby McGarry, chair of WILEF’s certification committee, said: “In order to maintain their status as leaders in this area, firms must continue making progress. That is why the criteria for certification have become more stringent over the years.”

Tursi also commented in a Q&A with The WILEF Tribune in 2016, “My opinion has always been that the stakes should get higher. Leaving it stagnant does nothing… why should firms keep certifying under the same standards year after year?”

The slightly tightened criteria saw the number of firms receiving the accolade drop in 2016, making the increase in this year’s numbers a notable positive step forward regarding diversity in law firms.

Global firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP has been awarded Gold Standard Certification for the seventh consecutive year and is one of only seven firms to have met all seven of WILEF's criteria this year. Kori Carew, Shook’s director of strategic diversity initiatives, told Who's Who Legal: “Advancing women and other underrepresented groups at Shook has required intentional and strategic effort along with leadership commitment… inclusion is not about asking people to fit in but rather creating a culture and space where everyone in their diversity can belong.”

It is hoped that WILEF’s practice of honouring law firms who integrate women into leadership roles and their increasingly stringent criteria will continue to encourage major firms to be more inclusive, and allow all lawyers an equal opportunity with regard to their career progression.

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