Feature Model Practice Women's Initiative

Duane Morris

Duane Morris LLP
Industry: Legal

Principle II: Work Life Balance and Career Development

2014 Challenge Submission

Duane Morris manages its diversity and inclusion program with the objective of utilizing the best talent worldwide to solve legal problems. The firm recruits a diverse pool of lawyers that collectively possess an awareness of cutting edge 21st century issues—legal, social, and economic—for which clients require solutions. Because diversity management is integral to the core business, the firm’s programs for the recruitment, retention, and promotion of historically minority groups will continue to grow.

“At Duane Morris, I’m not just proud of our accomplishments and victories for our clients. I’m just as proud of the culture and community of our firm… What we’re doing with the Women’s Initiative…has certainly garnered results and recognition… But what’s most impressive, to me, is the ongoing dialogue and exchange of ideas that the Women’s Initiative has sparked on how we can do better as lawyers, and as a firm.”
John J. Soroko,
Chairman and CEO, Philadelphia

The mission of the Women’s Initiative is to leverage and enhance the talent, contributions, and knowledge of all women at Duane Morris in order to better achieve the firm’s strategic objectives of gender equality, diversity, and success. The Initiative was started to foster retention and help women become leaders in the firm through multifaceted programs involving training, support, and mentorship between both men and women partners and associates.

Outside of the Women’s Initiative, Duane Morris offers viable part-time schedules for attorneys and keeps attorneys’ schedules private so no one knows who is part-time and who is full-time. The firm understands the needs of some of its attorneys to work a non-traditional schedule and believes that good lawyers doing good work should be recognized, regardless of the schedule they work.

All full-time partners are required to work 200-300 non-billable hours in addition to the 1950 billable hours required on firm-related or firm citizenship matters. Therefore, women and men who work on the Women’s Initiative are given credit for it.

How does this model practice work?

The multifaceted Duane Morris’s Women’s Initiative program focuses on creating leaders for the future by retaining, promoting, and training female lawyers to be rainmakers.

The Initiative is currently led by Sandra Jeskie, partner in the Philadelphia office and vice chair, Dominica Anderson, partner in the San Francisco office and managing partner of the Las Vegas office. The Initiative is managed by a 12 member company wide Steering Committee and a Programming Chair at the local level in all U.S. offices (18) as well as in London and Singapore. The Steering Committee meets monthly to discuss women’s issues related to the firm and plan programming going forward. The local programming chair takes the lead in executing projects on behalf of the Initiative and the office. Having local leadership helps to increase the amount of relevant activity within each office and gives the chair a leadership development opportunity.

Women attorneys are given opportunities throughout the year to network and develop their professional skills through a new “Insight” series of programming that includes discussions with firm leadership, insightful programming, and book clubs on important topics relevant to the success of women leaders in the legal workplace. Training on business development, legal practice, and leadership skills are offered through regular seminars and discussions. “Springboard to Success” (TM) was launched in 2012 to empower future leaders, an internal yearlong training program for female mid-level partners.

Recently the San Francisco office hosted a panel program featuring senior women executives who shared their stories of success and discussed ways in which they have navigated challenges and barriers facing women within their fields.

“I am the San Francisco Women’s Initiative Programming Chair. In this capacity, I have organized events that are of interest to women and that foster business…such as a roundtable of local women entrepreneurs, as well as more philanthropic endeavors, such as hosting events for Dress for Success and putting together a Duane Morris team for the Komen Race for the Cure…
For all these programs, Duane Morris has demonstrated an unparalleled dedication of time, money, and resources to aid in the success of its women attorneys. I am proud to be a partner in this firm.”
Jessica La Londe,

In the community, the Initiative develops and sponsors educational programs on various topics, including women’s leadership, legal trends geared toward female in house counsel, and practice related issues. The firm also hosts events and provides sponsorship for various women-focused and charitable organizations.


In 2013, five of the eight newly promoted partners firm-wide were women. Between 2010 to present, Duane Morris has elevated 46 partners, 22 of which are women (48%). Overall, 28% of all Duane Morris attorneys are currently women. The firm’s Executive Committee consists of five people, one of which is a woman, and 12 out of 46 seats are held by women on its Partners Board.

The firm continually seeks to improve the Women’s Initiative by asking its attorneys for feedback to make sure the programs speak to their needs and professional development.

How can I adopt this model practice in my workplace?

The Duane Morris Women’s Initiative is easily scalable as it focuses on two core areas – internally via the professional development of women attorneys and externally via business development initiatives that help attorneys get more involved in local communities and the businesses that serve them. The Women’s Initiative leadership, together with input from female attorneys, have identified the most challenging areas and topics in their practice and the firm continually responds with programs that address these issues. This format can serve as a model for other organizations that face similar challenges.

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