Investing in Women’s Leadership

“Gender diversity in business is directly linked to increased creativity, collective intelligence and financial performance. … It’s no surprise then that many of our country’s most innovative companies are instituting new policies to invest in women leaders,” wrote Orrick Chairman Mitch Zuklie in a Fortune op-ed about our industry-leading parental leave program.

Social research confirms the positive impact on business when organizations have three or more women on their board of directors. At Orrick, women have a strong voice in the leadership of our firm. We are fortunate to have five women on our Board and Management Committee. And women lead or co-lead two-thirds of the firm's 45 most valued client relationships.

Yet we know there is more we can do to advance women at our firm. To guide us, our Women’s Initiative is led by Leah Sanzari. To draw on the best thinking from inside and outside our firm, we have created a Women’s Leadership Board composed of leaders in business and law. Members include senior leaders from Facebook, Kleiner Perkins, NVIDIA, Oracle, Paypal, RPX Corp. and Total. Collaborating on this initiative is Kellie McElhaney, adjunct professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and founder of the Haas Center for Responsible Business.  

Here are some of the ways we are investing in women at Orrick, at our clients and in our communities. 



We have designed metrics to measure our success in advancing the careers of our diverse lawyers, including women. Each year, we prepare a "balanced scorecard" for each of our five global business units, analyzing each unit’s record on investing in women, minority and LGBT lawyers. We look at recruiting, retention and promotion as well as the composition of client teams. Our chairman, senior management, and leaders from our Diversity & Inclusion and Women’s Initiatives meet to discuss scorecard results and develop concrete actions for improvement.

Family Friendliness

According to a report by the MIT Workplace Center, the No. 1 reason women give for leaving big law is "the difficulty of combining law firm work and caring for children in a system that requires long hours under high pressure with little or inconsistent support for flexible work arrangements." To help address this problem, we adopted the most generous parental leave policy in the industry. We’ve also developed programs that give women the flexibility to return from leave at their own pace. We offer our U.S. lawyers paid primary caregiver leave of 22 weeks, and up to nine months’ job protection.

To offer greater stability and support when our lawyers return from leave, our onramping program includes a reduced hours expectation, as well as “guardrails” which provide the option of predictable hours during the first month of returning from leave. The firm’s "Leave Liaison" is responsible for coaching parents and practice groups on a successful transition back from leave. And, we recently launched a new parent-to-parent coaching program – pairing experienced and new parents to provide support and share best practices.

We support nursing mothers with private, comfortable nursing rooms in each of our offices. And, for nursing moms who are traveling for work, we reimburse the cost of breast milk delivery. We also make an initial contribution of $250 to a 529 college fund for every new Orrick baby. For these efforts, we have been named among the top 10 most female-friendly firms and the top 10 most family-friendly firms by Yale Law Women in 2018, and a Best Place to Work for Women by Fortune.

Support and Mentoring

Our Women’s Affinity Group is a forum for women lawyers to engage in candid dialogue and learn from one another’s experiences. The group also advises firm leadership on ways to invest in women’s success. We offer women’s mentoring circles in each of our offices and regularly host discussions on topics such as navigating the path to partnership, finding mentors and sponsors, and business development. Additionally, our in-house career coaches counsel and coach associates through confidential one-on-one sessions to help women develop and pursue their career and personal goals.

Connecting Women in Business

We have created several forums to promote networking and peer mentoring among successful senior women as well as rising stars – both at Orrick and in our communities. Ten years ago, we founded Successful Women in Intellectual Property (SWIP), a forum for women in IP and technology law. Several times each year, SWIP convenes lawyers in private practice, corporate legal departments, on the bench and in academia to discuss substantive legal issues and career advice. Based on the success of the SWIP program, we launched Women in Energy and the Women in Employment Network. We regularly host women who are public company directors and women GCs, to help connect them with one another, provide educational programming, and give coaching on executive presence. In New York, we host an annual networking event for women in finance.

Partnering to Support Women

We also partner with many other organizations that promote and support women. We’re a sponsor of ChIPs – the nonprofit focused on advancing and connecting women in technology, law and policy. We sponsor their annual conference and collaborate on their Advocacy Leadership Innovation (ALI) Program, which seeks to inspire the next generation of women leaders. And we partner with Seneca Women, Flex-time Lawyers, DirectWomen, National Association of Women Lawyers, National Association of Women Judges, She Shares, Equal Rights Advocates, Oregon Women Lawyers and Women Lawyers of Alameda County, among many other organizations.

Helping Women Reenter the Profession

We are a sponsor of Caren Ulrich Stacy’s innovative OnRamp Fellowship program, which provides experienced women lawyers re-entering the profession with the opportunities, skills and mentoring to successfully transition back to full-time practice. We are also one of six London law firms who are founding members of the Reignite Academy, which will provide opportunities for experienced lawyers to return to the profession after a career hiatus.