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Macfarlanes misses golden opportunity to improve its lagging gender diversity stats

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All male partnership promotion could see firm drop into ‘relegation zone’ in Legal Cheek’s table

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Top City outfit Macfarlanes has failed to name a single woman in its latest round of partnership promotions, leaving its female partner figure — at best — at a standstill.

Today, the silver circle firm announced that it had promoted six lucky lawyers into its top ranks. These newbie partners are ex-Linklaters lawyer Gideon Sanitt, tax specialist Peter Abbott, Cambridge graduate Justin Hope, commercial real estate guru Nick Barnes, former Addleshaw Goddard managing associate James Popperwell and corporate M&A lawyer Alexander Green.

Unfortunately, all of these promotions are men, despite the commercial giant boasting a female associate figure of 52%.

We’re not quite sure exactly where this leaves Macfarlanes in terms of its partnership stats. Currently 16% of the firm’s 84 partners are female, a pretty pitiful figure. Following today’s partnership promotion round — which comes into effect on 1 May — this figure can, at best, stay stagnant, but is likely to tumble.

And 16% is hardly worth celebrating as it is. Not only is the score miles behind in terms of gender parity, it’s also pretty bad when compared to other firms. Of the 53 law firms that disclosed their partner gender make up to us for the Legal Cheek Firms Most List, only seven fall below this figure. These include fellow City hotshots Mayer Brown (15%), Travers Smith (15%), and Simmons & Simmons (14%). As the percentage is likely to worsen, while others improve, Macfarlanes will almost certainly drop many places to find themselves in the relegation zone in our gender diversity league table.

In an increasingly diverse legal profession, steps are always being taken to improve — currently wildly disproportionate — gender stats. Recent developments include Pinsent Masonspromotion of eight women to the top ranks of the firm, and an unusual, though welcomed, partnership promotion round from Allen & Overy that saw an equal gender split in its London office.

Macfarlanes, by contrast, sticks out like a sore thumb. Charles Martin, senior partner, noted this when he described the promotion round as “one that is uncharacteristically and disappointingly lacking in women.”

With all-male promotions and no official gender partnership target endorsed by the firm, Legal Cheek is concerned that Martin can expect more uncharacteristic disappointment in the future.