担任律所合伙人与做母亲冲突吗?

英国《金融时报》 麦迪逊•达比希雷;巴尼•汤普森 伦敦报道
2019.06.10 12:00

一个当妈妈的还能同时担任合伙人吗?这是几十年来无数律师曾经面临的问题。在美国法学院去年的新生中,女生占了一半多一点;在英国,这个比例为三分之二。然而,根据咨询公司普华永道(PwC)的数据,2018年英国律师事务所的权益合伙人(equity partner)中,女性仅占19%。麦肯锡(McKinsey)2017年的研究也得出了类似的数据。

人们普遍认为,其中的症结在于很多女性面临这种选择:是担任合伙人(这意味着一周七天、每天24小时待命,而且要承受创造业务的压力)还是组建一个家庭?同时,美国哈佛大学法学院(Harvard Law School)法律职业中心(Center on the Legal Profession)主任戴维•维尔金森(David Wilkins)表示,目前权益合伙人职位有限,因为很多律所希望降低成本。

他说,这些因素综合起来“对女性产生巨大影响,因为她们仍然承担着大部分照顾和养育子女的责任,而且独自承担着生孩子的责任”。

然而,倡导在法律行业提高多样性的人士日益强调,不能错误地把这种情况看作是不可避免的。他们敦促律所寻找解决方案。诺顿罗氏律师事务所(Norton Rose Fulbright)主席法尔米达•比(Farmida Bi)表示,尽管公然的性别歧视经常受到诘责,但潜意识的偏见和想当然的观点也在阻碍着女性。

例如,假设几个合伙人想组建一个团队处理一笔交易,他们可能觉得一个当母亲的不愿意在凌晨两点接听一位要求苛刻的客户的电话或者频繁出差。而对于一位当爸爸的,就不会有这样的猜测。比表示,希望在高层提高多样性的律所需要改变业务流程。

专注于合伙和雇佣法的CM Murray的合伙人萨拉•奇尔顿(Sarah Chilton)表示,为律所创造业务的压力会让这个问题变得更严重。“在专业服务领域,一般有一种看法,你必须证明自己的存在。谈到开拓业务和创收,有人因为分派工作的人怀着有意或无意的偏见而得不到机会的吗?”

绘制一条重返工作岗位的路线

招聘公司Mlegal的合伙人梅琳达•沃尔曼(Melinda Wallman)表示,律所传统上一直实行“要么升职要么退出”的模式——干得好的升为合伙人,干得不好的走人——因此律所有必要及早发现有才华的律师(associate),阻止他们因为计划要孩子而自行选择“退出”。

沃尔曼表示:“他们应该说‘我们希望你留下来并成为合伙人,如果你要建立家庭,我们希望等你回归’。”沃尔曼与人合作发起了Reignite Academy,该项目旨在帮助英国金融城律师在职业中断后重返职场。

她补充称,对防止女性因休产假或家庭假而落后这个问题态度严肃的律所,还应实施更规范的员工和客户管理系统,别把与重要客户的关系全部交给男性负责。

奇尔顿表示,同样重要的是,“不要在她们休产假时忘记她们的存在”。“邀请她们一起午餐或参加活动,允许她们与客户保持联系。撰写条款这种简单工作可以交给休产假的员工,她们在家就能完成……这有助保留她们在业界的名声。”

在更根本的层面上,沃尔曼质疑有关合伙人需要时刻待命的观点。“要成为一名成功的律所合伙人,你是否需要拿出全部时间,每周七天、每天24小时?”她问道,“我们需要让人们可以用更少的时间来履职……这对于女性以及下一代都很重要。”

律所喜欢谈论弹性工作制,以满足新一代人的需要,现在的年轻人要求雇主提供更大的灵活性和工作生活平衡。但奇尔顿表示,律所很不擅长以新的方式来界定合伙人这个职位。“他们认为合伙人必须是造雨人,”她表示,“但让他们担任重要管理职位或一些部门总监职位对合伙机制有利。”

是否应该设置配额?

2011年,美国“法律界女性赋权论坛”(Women in Law Empowerment Forum)设立了一个“黄金标准奖”,颁给实现了性别多样性目标的律所。要获得这一奖项,律所的女性权益合伙人比例至少要达到20%,还要达到其他各种标准。

该论坛的联合创始人兼主席贝蒂亚因•图尔西(Betiayn Tursi)表示,目标既要“远大”又要符合实际。她称:“如果是50%就离谱了。”她补充说,考虑到40年前大多数律所可能只有一到两名女性合伙人,达到目标需要很长时间。今年,该论坛将其黄金标准引入了英国。

达纳•丹尼斯-史密斯(Dana Denis-Smith)是“第一个百年”(First 100 Years)计划的发起人,该计划旨在推广法律界女性的历史。在她看来,自我制定的目标都已经失败了,需要强行推进变革。今年2月,她呼吁对担任权益合伙人和管理职位的女性人数设定配额。她辩称,只有通过这种方式,女性才有可能在律所这种“极其刻板、僵化和虚假的地方”突破限制。

这让许多女性律师感到不安,她们担心客户会认为她们能担任某些职务,是为了统计数据看起来更漂亮。丹尼斯-史密斯驳斥了这种担忧:“女人们忘了,她们真的很优秀。我从没听说过一个有着平衡的或多样性的合伙人关系的律所经营不好的。”

奇尔顿对此表示赞同。“统计数据这么糟糕,配额就不算是一件坏事了。”她表示,“设定配额会鼓励律所确保女性取得成为合伙人所需要取得的成就。”奇尔顿补充称,20%至25%的目标“令人沮丧”,她表示:“如果你只制定了25%的目标,你就永远不会超过它了。而这个目标与律师(associate)的有关数字相去甚远。”大多数著名律所在律师这一级大致能达到50:50的性别比例,或是女性略占多数。这使得合伙人的数据更加令人震惊。

客户的作用

沃尔曼表示,公司法律顾问和客户也可以通过对合作的律所施压,让后者提升高层的多样性。当客户要求律所,其合伙人要具有多样性才能获得合同时——最近,数十位法律顾问在一封公开信中就发出了这样的呼吁——律所就必须要重视这个问题。

但是,这种作用是相互的。有一些人直到现在还期待着能不分日夜、在任何时间都能联系到律师,他们需要分清哪些要求是紧急的,而哪些可以等到早上。

丹尼斯-史密斯还批判了“授薪合伙人”(salaried partner)这个职位。授薪合伙人是指有合伙人头衔,但无权分享律所利润、也无权置喙律所运营的律师。她表示,这只是为了让合伙人的数据更好看。她说:“整个商业模式需要开放。”

最后,高层实现多样性在激励下一代方面至关重要,尤其是在目前这种律所需要与公司法务部门或小律所竞争的时候——在公司法务部或小律所工作,不必长时间地加班加点也有机会实现抱负。

“就多样性来说,最糟糕的就是合伙人处于边缘地位。”威尔金斯教授表示,“让你的女性和少数族裔员工成为超级明星,这样,年轻人就能看着他们说‘我能成功’。”

译者/何黎

原文:Can you be a mother and a senior law firm partner?

By Madison Darbyshire,Barney Thompson in London

It is a question that thousands of lawyers have faced for decades: can you be a mother and still make partner? Last year, just over half of entrants to law school in the US were women; in Britain, it was two-thirds. Yet in 2018 women made up just 19 per cent of equity partners in British law firms, according to PwC, the consultancy, while a McKinsey study from 2017 showed the same figure.

The generally accepted issue is the choice many women face between partnership — on call 24/7 and under pressure to generate business — or starting a family. At the same time, says David Wilkins, director of the Center on the Legal Profession at Harvard Law School, there are limited equity partnership positions as many firms look to cut costs.

These factors combine to have “a disproportionate impact on women because they still bear the majority burden of childcare and childraising, and the sole burden of childbearing,” he says.

Yet increasingly those campaigning for greater diversity in the legal profession say it is wrong to accept this as inevitable and are pressing firms to find solutions. While overt sexual discrimination is often challenged, unconscious bias and lazy assumptions are also holding women back, says Farmida Bi, chair at Norton Rose Fulbright.

For example, partners looking to build a team to work on a deal may assume a mother will not want a demanding client calling at 2am, or to travel frequently for work. These assumptions are not made about fathers. Firms seeking to improve diversity at the top need to make alterations to their processes, says Ms Bi.

The problem is exacerbated by pressure to bring work into the firm, says Sarah Chilton, a partner at CM Murray, which specialises in partnership and employment law. “In professional services generally there is a feeling that you have to justify your existence. When it comes to originations and billings, is someone being denied the opportunity to build that up because the person distributing work has a conscious or unconscious bias against them?”

Charting a route back to work

Because the traditional law firm model is a constant move towards “up or out” — partnership for those who make the grade, the exit for those who do not — firms need to identify talented associates early to stop them self-selecting “out” if they plan for children, says Melinda Wallman, partner at recruitment company Mlegal.

Ms Wallman co-founded Reignite Academy, a programme that helps City lawyers return after a career break. “They need to say, ‘we want you to stay and make partner, and if you want to have a family, we want to be the firm you come back to’,” she says.

Firms serious about preventing women from falling behind while they are on maternity or family leave should also implement more regulated staffing and client management systems to stop the relationships with important clients being entrusted solely to men, she adds.

It is also important “not to forget people exist while they are on maternity leave”, says Ms Chilton. “Invite them to lunches and events, allow them to keep up their contacts. Writing articles is something easy to offer someone on maternity leave — they can do that without leaving the house and . . . it keeps their name in the market.”

More fundamentally, Ms Wallman questions the idea that partners need to be permanently on call. “Do you need to be full-time, 24/7 to be a successful law firm partner?” she asks. “We need to make it possible to do these roles on less . . . it is important for women but also for the next generation.”

Law firms like to talk about flexible working to suit incoming generations who demand a greater flexibility and work-life balance from their employers. But they are “particularly bad” at defining the partner’s role in new ways, says Ms Chilton. “They think a partner has to be a rainmaker,” she says, “but they could contribute to the partnership by taking on major management roles, or some departmental head roles.”

Is it time for quotas?

In 2011 the US-based Women in Law Empowerment Forum launched a “gold standard” award for firms that hit gender diversity targets. Firms need a minimum of 20 per cent female equity partners, plus various other criteria, to get that rating.

Betiayn Tursi, co-founder and chair of the forum, says targets need to be “aspirational” and realistic. “Fifty per cent is a false narrative,” she says. Given that 40 years ago most law firms might have one or two female partners, it is important to play the long game, she adds. The forum introduced its gold standard to the UK this year.

For Dana Denis-Smith, founder of the First 100 Years project, which promotes the history of women in the law, self-imposed targets have failed and change needs to be forced through. In February, she called for quotas for the number of women at equity partnership and management level. Only that way, she argued, could women break through the “incredibly rigid, inflexible and artificial places” that were law firm offices.

That makes many female lawyers uneasy, worried that clients will assume they have been thrust into roles to make the statistics look good. Ms Denis-Smith dismisses this fear: “Women forget that they’re really good. I’ve never heard of a balanced or diverse partnership underperforming.”

Ms Chilton agrees. “The statistics are so awful that quotas are not a bad thing,” she says. “Having quotas would encourage firms to make sure females have achieved what they need to achieve to make partnership.” Targets of 20-25 per cent are “depressing”, adds Ms Chilton. “If you only have a target of 25 per cent, you’re never going to exceed it, and it is so out of kilter with the number of associates.” Most leading firms have a roughly 50:50 gender split at associate level, or a slight female majority. That makes the partnership statistics all the more shocking.

Clients have a role to play

In-house general counsel and clients also have a role to play in pressuring firms they work with to increase diversity at the top, says Ms Wallman. When clients demand diverse partnerships in order to secure contracts — as dozens of general counsels have recently called for in open letters — firms are forced to prioritise the issue.

This works both ways, however. Those who until now have expected to be able to reach lawyers at any time of day or night need an understanding of what requests are urgent and what can wait until morning.

Ms Denis-Smith has also criticised the position of salaried partner — a lawyer with the title of partner but without a share in the firm’s profits or a say in how it is run. That, she says, is merely to make the partnership figures looks better. “The whole business model needs to be opened up,” she says.

Ultimately, having diversity at the top is essential for inspiring the next generation, especially in a time when firms are competing with in-house legal departments or smaller firms who can offer fulfilling careers without the punishing hours.

“The worst thing for diversity is to have marginal partners,” says Prof Wilkins. “Make your women and minorities superstars so that younger people can look at them and say ‘I can succeed’.”

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