After sending 100 top firms a 35-question survey, the group weighted and ranked their responses. Firms garnered kudos and special attention for extending parent-leave programs, offering on-site child care, allowing lawyers to work from home, or fostering leadership opportunities for women and minorities.
Shortly after the list was announced, there was a (predictable) slew of press releases from the "winning" firms trumpeting their successful inclusion amongst the ranks of the "family-friendly."
Sounds like a great exercise, doesn't it? But in fact, it's essentially worthless, as are most lists and awards of this type, regularly created by bar associations and other legal associations across the country.
The fact is, based upon my experience and the experiences of others that I've spoken to, it's like pulling teeth to get most law firms to participate in surveys of this type absent not-so-subtle pressure from the few women that actually have power--ie. appellate court judges and/or the few equity women partners in law firms willing to stick their neck out.
And, nominations from women working in "family-friendly" firms are even harder to come by. In general, most women perceive their legal employers to be the antithesis of "family-friendly."
And, the methodology used to determine "family-friendly" is necessarily vague and the results of these lists are accordingly worth no more than the paper that they're written on.
In fact, I've spoken to many women working for firms that have made lists of this type in the past who express their utter amazement that their firm was even in the running, let alone made the list.
As best I can tell, the only benefit that comes of these lists is the PR garnered by the firms that made the cut. Following a barrage of press releases and award acceptance speeches at various events, they milk the award for all it's for the next year by including it as a flashing badge of honor on their web site.
As a result, unsuspecting new hires sign up thinking that they've hit the jackpot, when in fact, they've eventually learn that they've discovered hell on earth.
While I don't doubt the genuineness of those who create lists of this type, true change will come not from meaningless awards of this nature, but rather, will come from the exodus of disgusted associates from BigLaw.
Believe me. It will happen-it's happening already. And when it does, BigLaw won't know what hit it.