Women's Forum

Cornerstone Research

Industry: Legal Services 

Principle 4: Management and governance

Cornerstone Research has a unique culture where gender equality has been paramount from Day 1 and remains an integral part of its business model. Two of the three founding partners are women and women continue to hold an unparalleled number of leadership positions at the firm. For example, over 50% of office heads and corporate officers and 40% of partners and principals at Cornerstone Research are women. 

"We came together to talk about how to further nurture the women of our firm and to have more opportunities to meet and network among other professional women in the legal services space. …[The Women’s Forum] was a success right from the start and our guests thanked us for the experience and friendship." 
Maria Salgado, PhD

Women are particularly well represented in San Francisco: the female office head, chair of the board, and numerous senior women staff work from this office. Thus, it may come as no surprise that the San Francisco office spearheaded the Women’s Forum to mentor and develop women leaders within the firm. The San Francisco Women’s Forum shares best practices and works closely with other offices to develop Women’s Forums in those cities.

Following the success of its internal efforts to encourage its female staff, Cornerstone Research began to host external events for professional women, where esteemed female faculty give presentations to support career development. These events are convened in U.S. cities where the firm has offices; plans are underway to expand to London. The firm supports women in developing business relationships – a critical element to success – to build the next generation of firm leaders. To this end, Cornerstone Research has implemented numerous career-enhancing programs for women and, as appropriate, all employees, including leading-edge benefits to promote work-life balance.

How does this model practice work?

"The quality of the interactions we had with our guests was outstanding. The women who attended had a lively conversation as a group and with the speaker. We received many thank you emails. …Exciting times trying something new!" 
Vandy M. Howell, PhD
Vice President & former San Francisco Office Head

Cornerstone Research’s first Women’s Forum was held in 2013 in San Francisco. It has since expanded to Chicago, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and soon to New York, and other locations. At the inaugural event, Professor Kellie McElhaney from the Haas School of Business presented to a group of almost 50 women leaders (34 clients and 14 staff) on why investing in women is good business. These Women’s Forum events continue to provide lively conversation, valuable content, and the opportunity to network with female senior staff of Cornerstone Research, prominent faculty, women litigators, and business and government leaders. 

Since holding its first Women’s Forum in 2013, Cornerstone Research has promoted 12 women to principal, five to vice president, and two to senior vice president. The firm has also appointed more than eight women to leadership roles as office heads, practice heads, and to governance committees; it has also appointed an additional woman to the board. The Women’s Forum is integral to a culture of promoting female leadership at Cornerstone Research.

How can I adopt this model practice in my workplace?

The leaders of Cornerstone Research’s Women’s Forum learned from talking to other women in other firms. They observed and brainstormed internally about what was meaningful, both for them and for the legal community, and then developed the following formula for a successful Women’s Forum event:

  • Pick a location that has a view or offers something interesting to attract a larger group.
  • Talk to professors or speakers who are within your budget about how they would engage a group of women – TED Talks have served as inspiration.
  • The event should be in the early evening and last for two hours. This timing helps women who need to get home or want to see their families or friends after work. By serving small but hearty “bites,” guests can attend the Women’s Forum and still have evening dinner plans.
     o Cornerstone Research typically holds its event from 5:00–7:00 pm with the following          flow:
          5:00–5:45 pm Reception and Networking
          5:45–6:45 pm Presentation, Question & Answer Session
          6:45–7:00 pm Desserts and Networking
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