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by Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP | June 20, 2024


Beginning a career in Big Law can be a daunting prospect, particularly for attorneys from historically underrepresented groups.

To address the unique challenges and obstacles faced by incoming associates, Weil takes a 360-degree approach focused on providing equitable opportunities at every stage. There is no one-size-fits-all plan for professional development, so Weil offers customized resources to ensure a fair and equitable workplace for all attorneys.

Upon arrival at Weil, each new associate is paired with a mid-to-senior level Associate Mentor, as well as a New Associate Partner or Counsel Advisor. Mentors provide associates with guidance about working relationships and career issues, insight into the Firm’s culture and inner workings, access to other lawyers in the Firm and external contacts, advice on how best to deal with colleagues, clients and adverse parties, and candid, constructive and detailed feedback on work assignments. For diverse attorneys, a dedicated mentor can act as an ally to foster a sense of belonging and avoid workplace exclusion.

These official pairings last through the end of an associate's second year, at which time the associate mentor relationship continues in an unofficial capacity.  Associates can either request to keep their existing Partner Mentor or submit a new selection of partners they would like to have as a Partner Mentor. Mentorship continues to be made available at every step of the professional development journey, even through the partnership level.

Weil also operates a network of “mentoring circles” and “affinity groups” where associates and counsel meet regularly with partners to discuss career development topics and support each other’s professional careers. Currently, Weil’s New York office has more than 15 active mentoring circles and Weil’s regional offices also participate in local mentoring circles across practice groups, many of which provide valuable perspectives into issues faced by lawyers of diverse backgrounds and inform Weil policies, including those surrounding parental leave/benefits and work-life balance protocols.

The Firm’s Taskforce on Women’s Engagement and Retention (TOWER), a committee of women and men partners focused on the advancement and development of women attorneys globally, was established in 2015 One of TOWER’s signature initiatives is  a leadership and practice development program to bring together women attorneys from across the Firm’s offices and features workshops on key practice development competencies, one-on-one executive coaching sessions, while also creating a peer support network for the participants.

The TOWER program has contributed to the success of many of the participants as they advanced into partner and leader roles. The TOWER program serves a model for its BLAST (Black Lawyers Achieving Success Together) program for Black partners, counsel, and senior associates.

Banking & Finance partner Vynessa Nemunaitis, a former TOWER program participant who advises clients in complex multimillion- and billion-dollar matters, now serves as a Weil Mentoring Circle adviser and Co-Chair of the WeilLatinx affinity group, which aims to actively recruit and retain attorneys from all Latin/Hispanic backgrounds. As a partner in the Dallas office, Vynessa is familiar with the importance of building relationships across the Firm’s many offices.

“Participating in the TOWER program provided an amazing opportunity to build lifelong professional relationships and friendships with our colleagues from across the country, as we were given the opportunity to visit each other’s offices and share our experiences through a number of mentoring programs,” Vynessa said. “I am heavily involved with the recruitment of our new associates and appreciate the importance of building strong peer to peer and senior mentorship connections.”

Antitrust partner Megan Granger, who also participated in the TOWER program and played a leading role in guiding Microsoft through antitrust scrutiny to complete its $68.7 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard Inc. in 2023, emphasizes the importance of having spaces to cultivate a sense of community, particularly with other women attorneys.

“The peer mentorship relationships that I established through TOWER had a very positive effect during pressure points in my career”, she said.  “Knowing that we were pushing towards the same goal, and that I could rely on others with similar career experience for advice, fostered an  important sense of community that solidified my commitment to the Firm.”

Private Equity partner Mei Dan, another TOWER participant who is active in the Firm’s Women@Weil and AsianAttorneys@Weil affinity groups, notes that Weil’s commitment to diversity has had a noticeable impact since she joined the Firm, an effect that continues to compound.

“Weil’s recruitment, mentoring opportunities and professional development programs continue to attract increasingly diverse associate to the Firm,” she said. “It’s exciting to look around the Silicon Valley office and see the group of associates that we have joining us. One comment that I hear often from younger associates is that it really makes a difference to see someone who has a similar background to you being promoted and succeeding at a leadership level.”

As a result of the Firm’s intentional investments in supporting all talent, the percentage of women partners in the U.S. has increased from 20% to 32% since 2015 and, in the past decade, 47% of partner promotions have been women. Diverse organizations that cultivate purposeful professional development programs benefit from higher levels of creativity, engagement, collaboration, relationships, clarity and productivity. Diverse lawyers bring unique approaches and perspectives to the table based on their individual backgrounds and preferences. To ensure that these benefits are maximized – and to achieve a truly equitable workplace – law firms must offer a variety of mentorship and career-building programs designed to make all attorneys feel welcomed, supported and empowered.