Women's Institute for Leadership in Law (WILL)
Recipient of the American Bar Association’s 2019 Partnership Award

For over a decade, women and men have been graduating from law schools in almost equal numbers, yet women still make up only 23% of partners in law firms1, with more women represented at the non-equity partner level (30%) than at the equity partner level (20%)2. Women attorneys of color are only 3% of all partners and only 2% of equity partners, and in Pittsburgh, 21% of partners are women and only 1.5% are women of color3. Similarly, women represent only 30% of Fortune 500 General Counsel and 24% of Fortune 501-1000 General Counsel4. Although women hold more leadership positions than they did in the past, with the 200 largest law firms reporting that almost 24% of management committee members are female, as are 24% of attorneys leading practice departments and 21% of U.S. office heads5, there is still significant work to be done, including in Pittsburgh. In partnership with Carnegie Mellon Executive Education, the ACBA created the Women’s Institute for Leadership in Law (WILL) to increase the number of women attorneys advancing to leadership positions in their organizations in the Pittsburgh region.


The award-winning WILL program provides a unique training opportunity and experience – at an affordable price – that will benefit participating attorneys, their organizations and the legal profession overall.

Where there’s a WILL, there’s a way.

1 2018 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms. National Association for Law Placement, January, 2019.
2 Report of the 2018 Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms. National Association of Women Lawyers and NAWL Foundation, September 2018.
3 2018 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms. National Association for Law Placement, January, 2019.
4 A Current Glance at Women in the Law. American Bar Association – Commission on Women in the Profession. April 2019.
5 Report of the 2018 Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms. National Association of Women Lawyers and NAWL Foundation, September 2018.


  • Specifics

    • WILL is geared toward women attorneys who (a) have been identified by their organizations as high-potential and on the cusp of leadership, or (b) if applying individually, have demonstrated leadership attributes and/or accomplishments. We understand that for attorneys in law firms that may mean approximately 5 to 8 years of experience and for in-house attorneys, government attorneys and legal services attorneys that may mean 8 to 10 years of experience. We acknowledge that whether someone is high-potential and poised for leadership will depend on the individual attorney and/or the organization and may not be tied to these particular ranges of experience.

    • The ACBA hopes to assemble a diverse cohort of women attorneys with a variety of backgrounds, experiences, practice areas, work environments and goals in order to create a supportive and informative dialogue and to widen participant networks.

    • The 2020 cohort will meet for several sessions throughout a 10-month period, commencing with an overnight retreat on January 30 and 31, guided by Carnegie Mellon Executive Education and concluding with a graduation reception in November. Sessions will consist of three-hour meetings per month and will be focused on various professional growth areas, including self-assessment, executive presence, resilience, finance, internal and external business relationships and effective leadership and team management. Sessions will be led by CMU professors, industry experts and local attorneys who have extensive subject matter expertise. A minimum of 12 CLE credits will be available for these sessions. Please see the 2020 Cohort Application for 2020 session dates. Participants are expected to use their absolute best efforts to attend each of the 2020 sessions in their entirety.

    • The Program Fee (which includes all instruction, program materials, meals, CLE fees, bonding activity expense and the overnight accommodations for the Opening Retreat) for the 2020 Cohort is as follows:

      • $4,000 for ACBA Active Members
      • $2,600 for ACBA Government/Legal Services Members
      • $4,200 for non-members, except to the extent that non-members are government or legal services attorneys in which case the fee is $2750

    • The Program Fee will be invoiced upon notification of the acceptance of the applicant to the 2020 Cohort and will be due on or before Dec. 31.

    • A limited number of full and partial scholarships are available based upon demonstrated need for sole practitioners, attorneys at firms with fewer than 10 lawyers, government and legal services attorneys and/or other attorneys on a case-by case basis. Please see the 2020 Cohort Application for details.
  • Apply

  • 2020 Cohort Application

  • The application deadline is 5 p.m. on Dec. 2. Please return the completed application and all attachments as a PDF to acbawill@acba.org.

  • Applications will be considered as they are received and applicants will be notified of their acceptance to the 2020 Cohort on or before Dec. 13. There is a minimum cohort size of 20 and a maximum cohort size of 35.

  • More Info

  • For additional information on WILL, contact Alysia Keating, the ACBA’s Director of Diversity and Gender Equality, at 412-402-6658 or akeating@acba.org.

    For more information on gender inequality in the legal profession and the formation of WILL, please see these Lawyers Journal Articles:

    Additional contacts:

    ACBA Gender Equality Committee
    ACBA Institute for Gender Equality
    ACBA Women in the Law Division
    ACBA WLD Gender Bias Committee

“It is the hope of the Gender Equality Committee that the establishment of WILL will provide an intensive and business-focused series of programs for women who have established themselves as attorneys and seek to succeed in their firms and the profession.”

The Hon. Maureen Kelly
Chief Magistrate Judge, U. S. District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania.