Sheila Kerwin sits on the board of Minneapolis law firm Nilan Johnson Lewis.

More women on board

Minneapolis law firm promotes female leadership

By Cloe Gray
Monday, February 8, 2016

Statistics show that women are often underrepresented in the legal field. While this may be true for some law firms, it isn’t the case for Minneapolis law firm Nilan Johnson Lewis.

Nilan Johnson Lewis welcomes two female shareholders to its board of directors, Susan Kratz and Christy Mennen. Kratz and Mennen will join fellow shareholders Sheila Kerwin, founder Brian Johnson, and current president Stephen Warch.

“For our firm it was really critical to have more women on the board in order to have women have a bigger role in making strategic decisions and also engage in every aspect of firm governance and compensation decisions,” says Kerwin.

Nilan Johnson Lewis has a higher percentage of female lawyers, associates, and board members than national averages, according to the Law360 2015 Glass Ceiling Report. The firm has a 60% female board of directors in comparison to national averages showing females only make up 17.9% of board of directors for businesses.

Forty-four percent of the firm’s lawyers are female while the national average for firms with female lawyers is 33.5%.  Forty-six percent of associates are female at Nilan Johnson Lewis in comparison to the national average of 21.5%.

“We’ve really been ahead of the curve on this issue,” says Kerwin.

Kerwin also mentions that Nilan Johnson Lewis had three female shareholder candidates that had all been on maternity leave within 12 months of becoming a shareholder. “That was a non-issue here at our firm.”

According to a recent press release, Nilan Johnson Lewis attributes its high female representation to its commitment to retaining exceptional talent.

In 2015 the firm was recognized in Law360 as one of the top law firms for female attorneys and female partners, listed 16th on its Glass Ceiling Report of the top 100 firms for female attorneys and 6th on its Ceiling Smashers Report of the top 25 law firms for female partners.

The firm was also named one of the Best Law Firms for Women in NAFE Magazine in 2011 and won the Minnesota Women Lawyers’ Leadership award in 2010.

“In addition to getting women into top levels of management for making decisions about the firm, we think it’s really important for young women joining the legal profession to see role models at the top levels of the firm,” says Kerwin.

“We think it’s important for young female lawyers to see and it’s important for our clients too. We partner with our clients and want to be a reflection of them. Our clients really know the value of increasing the role of women in executive leadership.”