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For Women Only

By Megan Kinneyn | Apr. 2, 2007

Law Office Management

Apr. 2, 2007

For Women Only

As part of an image makeover, one law firm is giving women a higher profile. By Malaika Costello-Dougherty

By Malaika Costello-Dougherty
      Edited by Martin Lasden
At a time when law firms are losing women at an alarming rate, one San Francisco law firm is making a name for itself as a women-oriented organization?even though historically it has had trouble recruiting women. Sedgwick, Moran & Arnold, a 74-year-old litigation defense firm with 180 partners, instituted the Sedgwick Women's Forum in 2004 to help the firm recruit and retain women as well as to help its female attorneys generate more business. At the time, 20 percent of its partners were women. Today, the share is up to 22 percent. That hardly seems like dramatic progress, yet the Forum has become something of a marketing phenomenon.
      "It's kind of like a runaway train, in a good way," says partner Stephanie Sheridan, who's been with the firm 18 years.
      The Forum began with small events such as a book reading in San Francisco and a tea at the Waldorf in New York. But as time went on, the events got bigger and bigger. In January, Sedgwick's Women's Forum teamed up with a similar group from the accounting world, the Deloitte Women's Initiative, to sponsor a tea at the Four Seasons in San Francisco that drew 180 professional women.
      Such events, of course, are great for generating new business. For example, after a general counsel for a Fortune 100 international electronics manufacturer attended a couple of these teas, her company became a Sedgwick client. The Forum has also served the firm as a valuable recruiting tool for laterals and law students, who often mention the Women's Forum in initial interviews.
      Still, as insiders acknowledge, Sedgwick's male-dominated culture has yet to change dramatically. But the hope is that by changing the firm's image, the reality will change as well.

Megan Kinneyn

Daily Journal Staff Writer

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