Dear Leaders of Law Firms and Company Legal Departments,
We hope this open letter finds you and your families healthy and safe. We are writing today
in our capacities as members of the Executive Committee of the Chicago Coalition of Women Initiatives in Law, an organization that was founded over ten (10) years ago with the core mission of supporting and promoting all women lawyers. Over the years we have grown to a membership of over sixty law firms and over thirty in-house departments and counsel in the Chicagoland area -- and have put on countless programs, events, CLEs and networking and credentialing opportunities to help the female attorneys in our member firms and companies.
Our Executive Committee is comprised of experienced law firm attorneys and in-house counsel. We are all women. We all come from varied backgrounds and experiences. Some of us are the primary caregivers for small kids who are out of school or day care; some of us are also caring for aging or sick parents and family members. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, all of us, like you, are adapting to real, unique challenges on the home front, while juggling the changing demands and pressures facing our industry as a whole. And, remembering the not-too-distant 2008 recession, we are too familiar with the long-lasting, dramatic impact a national, or in this case, an international, crisis can have, particularly on women and minorities.
As law firms and legal departments across the country strive to reduce costs and grapple with difficult decisions on pay reductions, furloughs and, in some cases, even layoffs, the following eye-opening statistics from the 2008 crisis recently shared by the Diversity Lab are important to consider:
- The year-over-year gains law firms were making in female and racial minority associate representation stopped abruptly, and diversity numbers dipped for the first time in 20 years when the 2008 recession hit. The Black associate population in law firms did not rebound to its pre-2008 levels until last year. 
- Following the 2008 recession, racial and ethnic diversity in partnership ranks decreased by 14.3%, and the pay gap between female and male partners increased by 29%. 
- Even though women made up only 16% of equity partnership in 2008, they accounted for a whopping 50% of the equity partners who were terminated around that time. 
These statistics show that dramatic economic events can have an overwhelmingly negative, long-lasting impact on women and diverse women in our profession – and recovery back even to today’s already low, deficient representation can take many years.
As you consider and make the difficult decisions you may be tasked with making in your firm or company in the current crisis, we ask you to not allow history to repeat itself – and to consider that the already vulnerable populations in your organizations, and the essential resources and networks that exist to support them, now need your help more than ever. For our part, we will continue to relentlessly advocate for the amazing, diverse women that make up our membership, build real connections, create meaningful networking and credentialing opportunities, and put on relevant, timely programs and events. We thank you for your time to read and consider this letter.
The Executive Committee
Chicago Coalition of Women Initiatives in Law
, Neal Gerber Eisenberg – President
, McAndrews, Held & Malloy – Vice President
, Akerman – Secretary
, Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani – Treasurer
, Accenture – Member at Large
, Lathrop GPM – Member at Large