Herbert Smith Freehills pips Clifford Chance to the post in its latest partner promotions as firms strive for 30% female partners

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By Katie King on

Latest partnership promotions represent some improvement on gender diversity

Instagram (nikspeller)
Instagram (nikspeller)

Herbert Smith Freehills has outshone Clifford Chance in the shared bid for gender diversity in the profession’s top ranks, new partnership promotions reveal.

Global titan Clifford Chance has appointed three women to its London office, a third of a total of nine new partners, but for City big shot Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), closer to half of its promotions are women with three out of seven new UK partners.

In total, Clifford Chance has 24 new partners — an unusually high number — including nine at its London office. These are Paul Deakins, Christopher Sullivan and Andrew Husdan, all of whom are Oxford-educated. The other London-based promotions are capital markets specialist Louise Keary, former Macfarlanes associate Katherine Moir, litigation and dispute resolution lawyers Michael Lyons and Christopher Yates, former CMS Cameron McKenna associate Michael Pearson, and Bristol grad Alexandra Davidson. This is the biggest partnership push for years and, once the new roles take effect, the total number of partners at the firm will be a whopping 577.

And HSF isn’t far behind with 20 new partners internationally, seven in its London office. The London promotions include corporate lawyer Silke Goldberg, former Goldman Sachs adviser Caroline Rae and newly married Stephen Newby, who announced his fairytale wedding to fellow HSF lawyer Yuji Huang in The Times earlier this year. Also promoted were University of Glasgow LLB-holder Robert Carr, corporate specialist John Taylor, Cambridge grad John Corrie, and real estate expert Shona Grey.

On the gender diversity front then, both partnership promotions rounds are pretty meh. Though 33% of the newbie Clifford Chance partners are women, this figure dips to 24% when we look at the promotion round internationally. This percentage nudges Clifford Chance slightly above magic circle rival Linklaters, who also recently promoted 24 partners, 20.8% of whom are female.

The promotion numbers revealed by HSF are better. We’re looking at an international figure of 30% female partners, which increases almost by half to 43% when the London office is looked at in isolation.

In the strive for gender parity in the profession, neither result is particularly overwhelming, though the percentage of women promoted to partner this year at these firms is a step up from their current total number of partners; at the moment, both Clifford Chance and HSF boast a UK female partner figure of 20%, a middling result in the context of top firms. That’s not the only thing the commercial giants have in common: both have also announced gender diversity targets of 30%, HSF’s by 2019 and Clifford Chance’s by no fixed date.

So where do the latest promotion rounds leave the firms in terms of these targets? According to Clifford Chance global managing partner Matthew Layton, with some way to go. He commented:

We are making headway around improving the gender balance in our partnership, and a third of our new partner promotions in London and Asia Pacific are women. However, progress is slow and we have some distance yet to go to meet our 30% ambition for the partnership overall.

Mark Rigotti, joint CEO of HSF, is rightly more optimistic. He said:

I am delighted that once again a significant number of our new partners are women, underlining our commitment to working towards our target of a 30% female partnership by 2019.