I am proud to be a Managing Partner at Levin & Perconti, a nationally recognized personal injury and medical malpractice law firm where 50 percent of our attorneys and 46 percent of our partners are women.
In recent years, our success as a law firm has increased with the number of our lawyers and partners. Female attorneys play leading roles in most of the firm’s largest cases, and many of them are successful in balancing career and family.
I wish I could say that in 2023 our firm is the norm for the legal profession, but unfortunately it is not, especially in the practice of law that has traditionally been male-dominated. Many law firms are still operating as they did in the 1960s, and that is driving too many women lawyers out of the profession.
In recent years, women made up more than half of the country’s law students, but female lawyers make up just 38 percent of the legal profession. There is a leaky pipeline with many talented women lawyers leaving the profession within 10 years, largely due to the lack of flexibility law firms offer women during childbearing years and raising young children, an unsupportive culture, and unequal pay even today and career advancement.
Plugging that pipeline and stopping the exodus is not only the right thing for women, it’s also a smart business move. Law firms invest time and money in recruiting and training attorneys. It is not a good return on investment for women lawyers to leave just when they are in their prime, taking their expertise and working relationships with them. It is disruptive to clients and unsustainable for the future legal profession.
I started at Levin & Perconti in 2006 as a legal trainee. You only had two lawyers at the time. I was fortunate that our founding partner, Steve Levin, was committed to hiring and retaining more female attorneys.
He recognized the talent, work ethic and special skills that bring women to court, especially in personal injury and medical malpractice cases where you often deal with clients at the worst time of their lives.
He also saw the unique challenges women face, especially when they have young children. Work-life balance is always a struggle for lawyers because it is an area that requires long hours. But it’s often harder for women, especially in their 30s. These are the years when lawyers work towards becoming partners and also the time when women often have babies and raise small children.
No wonder, this is also the time when the pipeline is at its most leaky.
In our company we made some small changes that made a big difference. Our workplace has become more flexible. As long as you got your work done, there was the flexibility to do it and still be home to put your kids to bed.
Years before the pandemic, we were working from home. Taking maternity leave was encouraged, not scorned. Equal pay and advancement opportunities and a culture where women mentor each other were also essential.
The payoff for the firm has been immeasurable in terms of attracting and retaining top female lawyers. Bottom line, doing what’s right for women is also good for business.
Our law firm has won more than $1 billion in judgments and settlements for our clients, including a number of record-breaking results, and our women attorneys have played a large part in the firm’s success and growth.
Having spent 17 years at the firm, I have progressed from legal trainee, to associate, to partner and now to managing partner. I also had two babies.
My kids are now in high school and although my schedule is hectic I have the flexibility and support I need to be a lawyer and mother. It also benefited our male attorneys to have families and also helped with their work-life balance.
I hope Levin & Perconti can serve as a model for other law firms.
• Margaret Battersby Black is a Managing Partner at Levin & Perconti and is based in Elmhurst.