Congrats Kathleen Sullivan. It's About Time!

Congrats Kathleen Sullivan. It's About Time!

According to a March 11, 2010 report from Above the Law and the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, Kathleen Sullivan is the first woman to become a named partner of an AmLaw 100 firm. This followed Quinn Emanuel's announcement that it had added "Sullivan" to its letterhead. (click here to view the full announcement. and read more here.. For Above the Law's report that Sullivan is the first woman to make it onto the AmLaw 100 as a named partner, see more by clicking this link..) Professor Sullivan may also be the first openly LGBT named partner on the AmLaw 100, which would also be a big milestone (harder to determine of course, because sexual orientation is not readily apparent, as is gender).

I wanted to write to congratulate Professor Sullivan, and add the student perspective. On top of running Quinn's national appellate practice, arguing cases before the Supreme Court, Professor Sullivan has taught two full courses (not once-a-week seminars) at Stanford Law School. This quarter she taught both first-year constitutional law and an advanced constitutional law course on the First Amendment. Both met several times per week, and Professor Sullivan was also available for office hours. The biggest change I would ask for would be more anecdotes-we had to cover a huge amount of material in a short period of time, but a few minutes to tell an illustrative and interesting story always seemed worth it, and Professor Sullivan had some good stories (like the one about handily using existing laws to address the problem of t-shirt vendors in Hawaii).

I can't help thinking that 2010 is a little too late for this milestone. Sure, the big firms were created decades ago when there were not so many women in the profession. But clearly firms can change their names, as Quinn has shown.

This also brings to mind the equity/non-equity issue, which is the topic BBLP has been blogging about recently (in recent posts such as "Partnership Shell Game.") and "Who Cares about Non-Equity Partnership Reporting?") How many women are really in the running for the named partner honor? And conversely, how many women are called "partners" but are really just still salaried staff (i.e., really highly paid associates) with no shot at any further upward mobility within a firm? How many women are managing or hiring partners, in a position to encourage institutional change?

So congrats to Professor Sullivan, and well-done Quinn, but this news should underscore what still needs to be done.

Mira Serrill-Robins is a member of Building a Better Legal Profession (BBLP) an organization based at Stanford Law School.   BBLP is a national grassroots movement that seeks market-based workplace reforms in large private law firms. For more information, visit BBLP's Web site at www.betterlegalprofession.org.