Women partners: Eversheds smashes 25% gender diversity target as CMS and Norton Rose Fulbright eye 30%

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By Alex Aldridge on

The demographics of megafirms are changing


Eversheds, CMS Cameron McKenna and Norton Rose Fulbright have become the latest corporate law firms to boost gender diversity with their partner promotions

In doing so, Eversheds — which has offices across the country and globally — has smashed the 25% female partner target that it set itself to achieve this year, and looks on to easily meet its aim to have 30% women partners by 2020.

CMS and Norton Rose Fulbright, meanwhile, are now close to that 30% figure, with their latest promotions nudging them up beyond the respective 29% and 24% women partner figures that they began the year with.

Eversheds made up 11 new women partners out of a total of 26 — meaning its new chiefs are 42% female. This follows on from a 2015 partner promotions round which saw a 50/50 gender split. Three of Eversheds’ new women partners are based in Birmingham, while two are in Dublin, with one each in Cambridge, Nottingham, Leeds, Manchester, Cardiff and Dubai.

The firm’s chief executive, Bryan Hughes, said:

Once again, we have demonstrated that gender is no barrier to progression at Eversheds.

Returning to CMS: 12 out of 31 of its new partners are women. Two are UK based — in London and Edinburgh — while CMS’s Paris, Utrecht and Sofia offices also take two a piece. The remainder are split across the sprawling network firm’s outposts in Madrid, Belgrade, Kiev and Luxembourg.

CMS senior partner Penelope Warne said:

With our new partners, I am encouraged to see the breadth of talent rising up across the firm. It is also very good to see the female representation of our global promotions remaining high and spanning a number of our core jurisdictions and sectors, a reflection of the inclusive culture we are proud of at CMS.

And last but not least, Norton Rose Fulbright — which adds 12 women partners out of 31. They are based in Sydney, Perth, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Amsterdam, Munich, Johannesburg, Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles and New York.

With magic circler Allen & Overy and national behemoth Irwin Mitchell both also announcing this month that near half of their new partners are women, it would seem that times are changing up the male-dominated upper echelons of big law firms.

Part of this trend is being driven by graduate recruitment numbers — most of these firms have over 50% women associates; many have over 60% (see the Legal Cheek Firms Most List for a full benchmarking of firms’ gender diversity). But this has been the case for well over a decade now, and partnerships have remained male dominated.

What’s changed in recent years is that the argument for gender equality has been reframed in terms of economics, with policy-makers suggesting that increasing female participation at all levels of the workforce could be the key to boosting productivity and getting Western economies motoring again.

Keen to please both government and their clients — who are increasingly demanding more diversity from their legal advisors — law firms seem at last to be letting go of their male bias. Indeed, the higher echelons of City law could be primed for a gender revolution.