Big Law Still Isn’t Big Enough for Women Who Want to Make It Big

Six and a half years after arguing that women’s success in legal doesn’t matter if they don’t work at Biglaw, Vivia Chen is back with this interview with Beth Wilkinson, who left biglaw at Paul Hastings back in 2016 to launch her own firm.  Reading the interview, you can tell that Chen still doesn’t get it – she seems unable to comprehend why anyone – particularly a woman – would leave the biglaw fold.and Wilkinson responds with the near universal answer by anyone who’s left a firm for their own pastures:

  • Desire  to do something different—do more trials and create a firm with greater diversity. 
  • Ability to take on more clients because “there aren’t the conflicts that arise in a big firm.”
  • A yearning to build some new.  As Wilkinson explained, “We got calls [from another major firm], asking whether we wanted to join, and we said, Nope, you’re what we’re trying to get away from.”

Chen also expresses skepticism that other women can achieve what Wilkinson did given that many women struggle to build books at biglaw.  Here, Wilkinson makes clear that the issue isn’t gender but the biglaw environment that stymies women’s success:

I do think the system is geared towards men. They turn to others like them when work opportunities arise. Women are often left out of those conversations and meetings when firms pitch for work.

The problem is that people are vying for credit—monetary and power—and it’s hard for those with power, who are men, to share with others. That’s the nature of power: once you have it, you want to keep it. There were times I just wanted to do my work.

Wilkinson is an accomplished litigator with 50 trials under her belt, and her firm has a roster of high-profile clients. So in many ways, Wilkinson is different from the dozens of other women with smaller, community-focused practice.  But at the core, we women-owned law firms share the same dream of building something new, something different and in doing so, leaving the legal profession a better place than we found it.  

Because why should women rescue biglaw when there’s something so much bigger out there.