In June, I invited CWBA members to participate in the inaugural State of the Law Firm Survey that my company co-sponsored with Law Week Colorado. The survey was designed to illuminate the well-being and status of lawyers in private practice in Colorado, recognizing that state-level data on these issues is sparse. My deep appreciation goes to those who participated in the survey. I’d now like to provide an update on some of the top-level results.
Law Week Colorado provides a snapshot of the survey results here. Further, Clara Geoghegan authored an article in Law Week Colorado, “A Closer Look at Colorado’s Legal Profession,” which provides an excellent overview of the results particularly relevant to female attorneys.
“A Closer Look” highlights areas where progress has been made as well as gender-based differences in workplace perceptions among survey respondents—roughly half of whom were female. Although responses relating to the respondents’ firms were largely positive, in some instances female respondents offered more mixed views than their male counterparts:
About 20% of women respondents said they had concerns they would be perceived as less competent based on their gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability status, compared to less than 5% of men.
When asked whether they agreed that their firm had made a significant commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, 58.5% of male respondents agreed with the statement and 20% disagreed, while among women respondents, only 44.1% agreed with the statement and 30.9% disagreed.
When asked if they felt attorneys at their firm could have a reasonable work-life balance and adequately attend to family needs, 83% of male respondents agreed and 10.8% disagreed; among women respondents, however, 69.6% agreed and 14.5% disagreed.
Though not mentioned in “A Closer Look,” the survey revealed several other areas where women held less positive views of their firm than did men. For instance, women respondents were considerably more likely than men to disagree with the statement that their firm is succeeding at retaining qualified attorneys of color. Women respondents were also less likely to say that their firm has made a significant commitment of time and other resources to promote attorneys’ well-being.
Fortunately, the survey helps identify concrete areas where firms can help make workplaces a better fit for women. For instance, roughly 65% of female respondents agreed that flexible remote work policies were a significant factor in their choice of firm, compared to about 43% of male respondents. This data point is reflective of recent ABA survey results. By adopting family-friendly policies, law firms may be able to avoid the disruptive levels of attorney attrition that the Colorado survey indicates may be imminent.
The State of the Law Firm Survey results signal that Colorado law firms still have work to do to meet female attorneys' needs and priorities, but the survey helps point the way towards ensuring that law firm workplaces are a good fit for both women and men. Colorado firm leaders and their colleagues have the important opportunity to create magnetic workplace cultures where lawyers of all backgrounds are included, feel a sense of belonging, and can thrive personally and professionally.
I’d love to hear CWBA members’ thoughts about the survey results, and I invite you to reach out to me to chat.
Gene Commander is an executive business counselor for the legal industry, with a special focus on proactive business growth strategies for Colorado law firms. He has more than 40 years of experience in the legal industry while practicing construction law with small, midsize, regional, and national firms. Gene gained a broad understanding of law firm management principles and the value of human capital through past roles serving on the management committee of a midsize firm and as managing shareholder in the Denver office of an Am Law 100 firm. Through Gene Commander Inc., he now helps law firms stay ahead of the curve by proactively adapting to shifting economic, demographic, and professional trends.