Why aren’t big law firms aiming for half their partners to be women?

Avatar photo

By Alex Aldridge on

Latest round of 30% women partner targets look do-able — but why so unambitious?


Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) has become the latest big law firm to announce a target to raise the percentage of women in its senior ranks.

The firm — which sits at 14th place out of 60 firms in the Legal Cheek Most List for gender diversity — wants to up the proportion of women partners from its current level of 24% in the UK to 30% by the close of 2018.

Which, given the modesty of the rise and the timescale involved, seems very do-able …

As do the similar gender diversity pledges announced recently by Linklaters (30% women partners by 2018), Pinsent Masons (25% by 2018), Baker & McKenzie (30% by no specified date), Allen & Overy (20% by 2020) and Herbert Smith Freehills (30% by 2019) — which are further detailed in the table below, alongside the firms’ current female partner percentages.


But don’t women make up 50% of the population? And aren’t at least half of the associates at these firms female?

At the very least, shouldn’t BLP, Linklaters and all the rest of them be aiming to match gender Most List leader Withers — 45% of whose UK partners are women?

Although she would like an equal gender split, BLP partner and board member Lisa Mayhew thinks the best bet for sustainable progress is to take things steadily, commenting:

“We are passionate about ensuring BLP remains a fulfilling and progressive place to work and this target, and the measures that accompany it, will help create an environment which enables different people to be themselves. This is important to our clients and it is important to us.”

The Legal Cheek Top 60 Firms Most List [Legal Cheek]