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How big law firms score talent

The visibility of the legal profession has gotten a lift recently. All eyes are on the Supreme Court, and there have been a flurry of stories about lawyers suddenly donating their time to social and political causes.

The legal profession, like all knowledge work, is literally made of people, so hiring the best team is the most important thing a law firm can do. A single lawyer can make or break any case, and in turn the reputation of their firm—even the biggest ones. In fact, an extensive study of Supreme Court petitions conducted by Reuters found that the lawyer who’s name was on the brief was among the strongest predictors of whether the justices would take a given case.

To get a sense of how effectively big law firms recruit, we took a look at the largest law firms in the US by revenue to see how they stack up in the Textio Index. The results were surprising. Not one of the large firms broke above a 50 in Textio Score. However, the highest, Latham & Watkins, was more than 10 points above their next highest competitor, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. The majority of the top ten languished on our scale with a score in the low 20s.

Bar chart of Textio scores of largest law firms in the US by revenue

Big law firms also suffer from the same kind of institutionalized gender bias found across most industries. While women in law school and in entry level legal positions is around 50%, the gap between women and men widens as you get higher up in rank at a law firm. It is no surprise then that half of the top 10 law firms show a clear bias that statistically favors men in the hiring language they use for their job postings.

Chart of gender tone in job postings for big law firms in the US

As our research has shown, the language in your job posting determines the gender of who will get hired. Fixing this bias will play an important role in tightening the gap at the partner level in big law firms.

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