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November 17, 2010 12:01 AM

The Careerist: Wilmer's New (Mostly Female) Partners

Posted by Vivia Chen

Will Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr win the contest for elevating the highest percentage and number of women equity partners in The Am Law 100 this year?

The firm's chances are looking very good right now. The results aren't all in, and it's still early in the partner-promotion-announcements season, but consider the numbers. Of Wilmer's 11 newly promoted partners, eight--or 73 percent--are women. (Currently, women account for 24 percent of the firm's partners, and nine percent of the diverse partners.)

"There was no decision to increase the number of women partners," Wilmer co-managing partner William Perlstein says of the promotions.He adds that the firm "really didn't realize what percentage of women would be up...we start with a reasonably large number of candidates, and the [partnership selection] committee does a careful review."

Perlstein says he's not sure what accounts for the high number of new women partners. But, he points out, the firm has a number of part-time partners, and one of the newly named partners still is on a part-time schedule. "Part-time partners have worked well here," he says, adding that the firm has had a thriving part-time policy since the 1990s.

One factor for the high numbers of women partners might be Wilmer's culture. Jennifer Berrent, one of the new partners, says the firm's attitude toward flexibility made it easy for her to stay on. A single mother with a four-year old son, Berrent says she usually works one day a week from home, though her schedule is often erratic. "I don't feel I'm fighting the system here," she says.

And even though a part-time schedule is an option, Berrent says she's managing just fine as a full-time lawyer. "We have a clear hours expectation here, 2,000 hours, and that feels okay to me," she says.

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