Barriers to Women’s Success in the Law book review

Here is my book review of Ending the Gauntlet:  Removing Barriers to Women’s Success in the Law which was just published in the Nov./Dec. 2006 issue of  The Houston Lawyer. (Click and scroll down to read it.)

Ending the Gauntlet: Removing Barriers to Women’s Success in the Law By Lauren Stiller Rikleen
Thompson/Legalworks 2006, 409 pages
Reviewed by Janet H. Moore
The compensation and advancement structures at most law firms keep many women lawyers from achieving significant and sustainable professional success, posits Lauren Stiller Rikleen in her recent book Ending the Gauntlet: Removing Barriers to Women’s Success in the Law. Her detailed and thoroughly researched book provides a sobering reminder of just how far women attorneys still have to go to reach professional parity with their male colleagues. Rikleen, a senior partner at Massachusetts-based Bowditch & Dewey LLP and a former president of the Boston Bar Association, has long researched the advancement of women in the legal profession. She draws on confidential interviews with lawyers and extensive secondary sources to tackle thorny issues including reduced-hour schedules, making partner and compensation. The author explains many barriers to women’s success in the law. For example, she discusses the importance to lawyers’ careers of both being mentored and succeeding at client developmentand examines why many women attorneys experience neither. Rikleen also discusses work/life balance and the pros and cons of part-time schedules; she notes that many managing partners view part-time schedules as accommodations (in other words, favors) for particular, superstar women attorneys rather than as retention strategies to reduce the costs of lawyer attrition. Rikleen extensively quotes from confidential interviews conducted with both male and female partners, associates and in-house attorneys. At times the extensive interview quotes seem to be reiterating the same points. However, substantial research from secondary sources (including several ABA studies) and detailed footnotes counterbalance the quotes and further support the author’s points. One of the most interesting and perhaps disheartening chapters describes a pervasive and serious disconnect between many managing partners and the lawyers they manage. Rikleen explains that many managing partners only manage part-time, and spend the rest of their time trying to keep their own law practices intact. As a result, many managing partners do not fully understand their attorneys’ concerns and issues. The author also believes that many departments within firms are poorly managed by partners who are appointed not for their managerial talent but for their rainmaking success. Rikleen starts her book by suggesting that the legal profession might be at the “tipping point” for change, and concludes her book by calling for a culture change. “Culture is the place where strategic planning, workforce development and law firm economics meet. Firms cannot achieve a more diverse workforce and continue to attract top law students through a culture that demands a uniform billable-hour contribution from everyone. ( p. 284) Noting that young Generation X and Y lawyers, both male and female, increasingly value quality of life, Rikleen encourages law firms to adapt their policies accordingly to retain top talent. Rikleen firmly believes that strong law firm leadership can change law firm culture in order to attract and retain top women lawyers. In fact, as she explains in the book’s Acknowledgements, her own law firm succeeded at doing just that. Janet H. Moore, JD, provides executive coaching and consulting for lawyers through International
Lawyer Coach, Inc. She is a member of the editorial board of
The Houston Lawyer.

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