Half of Allen & Overy’s new London partners are women

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By Katie King on

Internationally the female promotion figure is 29%, as firm homes in on rather low gender diversity target


Magic circle giant Allen & Overy has today announced its latest round of promotions — and 50% of its lucky London-based newbie partners are women.

The international firm has named six partner promotions in its UK office, three of whom are women. These are UCL grad Kate Davies, banking specialist Kate Sumpter, and Oxford alumna Jane Higgins. They will join James Burton, who is a tax expert, history graduate Darren Hanwell, and former CMS Cameron McKenna lawyer Matt Moore as the City firm’s newest partners.

This is no doubt a big — and welcomed — step for gender diversity; something that is undoubtedly lacking in the top ranks of the profession. A quick scan of Legal Cheek’s Firms Most List shows that leading commercial law firms tend to recruit women in their droves at associate level, yet the top positions continue to be dominated by men. Allen & Overy is no different: 51% of its associates are female, but only 18% of its partners are.

To combat this, law firms have leaned towards introducing gender diversity targets. For Allen & Overy, it’s 20% by 2020.

The introduction of targets is an admirable venture but, as pointed out by Legal Cheek in 2014, the figure at which it is set is a bit of a kick in the teeth for aspiring female partners (given that women make up 50% of the population).

It’s a target, not a quota, so it’s meant to be aspirational. Why not set a target of 50%? Or a target of 45%, to get other firms in line with gender diversity leader Withers. Even by other law firm’s standards, the Allen & Overy target is distinctly lagging behind the likes of magic circle rival Linklaters and its pledge for 30% women partners by 2018.

Still, Allen & Overy’s latest promotion round at least seems to indicate that it means business. However, let’s be clear: it’s the London-based promotions that boast a 50/50 gender split. Of the remaining 15 lawyers promoted across the world, only three (20%) are women. That amounts to a figure of 29% worldwide.