In 2015, the ABA issued a report entitled First Chairs at Trial: More Women Need Seats at the Table. The report used data from cases filed in the Northern District of Illinois in 2013, concluding that only 24% of the lead counsel across both civil and criminal cases were women (23% in intellectual property cases and 15% in contract cases). The study also found that most litigation teams are all male: 67% of intellectual property cases and 70% percent of contract cases. As relevant to the Next Gen initiate, the report concluded with Best Practices for Law Schools, Law Firms, Clients, Judges and Women Lawyers, noting:
Judges are also integral to the efforts to increase the number of female first-chair trial lawyers. Judges can be mindful of appointing experienced, qualified women lawyers as lead counsel, liaison counsel, or members of the steering committee in MDL class action cases. Judicial appointments of women litigators as special discovery or bankruptcy masters, trustees, or guardians ad litem can help increase the visibility and credibility of women lawyers, which will help them advance to equity partnership and develop as rainmakers.
In addition, a number of judges have sought to incentivize law firms to provide greater opportunities for courtroom experience to their women and minority associates. For example, certain judges around the country have made it a practice of allowing argument on motions that would otherwise not be heard, as long as the advocate will be the associate working on the case, rather than the partner. (Page 16)
Written by: Kathi Vidal, May 3, 2016