Linklaters’ latest partner promotion round features a notable lack of women

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By Katie King on

Global titan falls short of its gender diversity target


Commercial super power Linklaters has set tongues wagging in legal London this week, following a partner promotion announcement that features relatively few women.

The magic circle firm — which alongside Slaughter and May has the highest proportion of women partners in the magic circle at 24% — revealed today that, worldwide, it has promoted a total of 24 lawyers to its top ranks, including 10 in its London HQ.

New London partners include University of Leeds grad Mark Drury, corporate lawyer Will Aitken-Davies, former Nabarro associate Philip Goss, and Oxford-educated Ian Hunter. The other partner promotions went to former Melbourne-based lawyer Oliver Sceales, real estate specialist Tom Watkins, ex-Linklaters counsel Georgina Kon, capital markets lawyer Alexander Shopov, University of Edinburgh graduate Neil Dixon and dispute resolution expert Ros Gallagher.

Certainly a mixed bag in terms of legal know-how, but on the diversity front the lack of women sticks out like a sore thumb. All but two of these London-based newbie partners are male, meaning that only 20% of the new cohort are female.

Internationally, the numbers are better — slightly. If we add the firm’s Luxembourg, Hong Kong, Paris, New York, Munich, Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Stockholm offices into the mix, then we’re looking at a figure of 20.8%.

The figures make for surprising reading given the firm’s commitment to gender diversity. And while Linklaters’ associates are predominantly female (51%), there is a distinct lack of women in the top ranks — as is also the case in most City firms. The commercial powerhouse has set a target of 30% female partners by 2018 in an effort to combat this. Currently it’s still some way off at just 24%.

In terms of its heavily male-dominated partnership promotion round, then, Linklaters looks to be following in the footsteps of commercial rival Macfarlanes. We’re hoping this isn’t going to become part of an ongoing trend — and so, it seems, is Linklaters. A spokesperson said:

We have made clear that improving diversity at the firm is a key global priority and our track record over recent years is showing encouraging improvement.

They continued:

While we would have clearly preferred a better gender balance in this year’s cohort, we will judge the success of our many gender focused initiatives over a longer time span than individual years and with a sense of a healthy male and female ‘future partner pipeline” we are confident that the direction we are heading will continue to yield improvement and allow us to meet our ambitious targets.

It had, in fact, been a pretty good start to the month in terms of gender diversity news. Pinsent Masons promoted eight women to its top ranks, Allen & Overy was applauded for making marked progress in its strive towards its gender diversity target, and Linklaters made headlines for considering a woman for the important role of senior partner.