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


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.



Legal Cheek would do well in promoting gender diversity by hiring another female reporter to give a fresh perspective in its articles.

Hopefully this will mean we will see less articles bemoaning the lack of diversity in law firms.



Bring back Briana!

And what about the ultimate diversity – real reporters to fake ones. Judge John Hack and Occupy the Inns have been very quiet lately, is this a conspiracy against fake reporters?


Just Another Person

Maybe the male candidates that were promoted just happened to be the best candidates for the job?? It’s not like 40 men were promoted and 0 women, there were 6 promotions so that could be possible.

A woman should not be promoted to partner just to improve the diversity stats, yet this is what you suggest by saying that this was “Macfarlanes’ chance” to improve the stats. That’s not the purpose of promoting people to partner. It’s actually to do what’s best for the firm and recognise those who have earned the promotion.



Gender politics does not care for profits, only brownie points so that its supporters can sleep soundly at night.


Just Another Person

Exactly! If a woman who was better suited to a job was not hired because that position lacked male representation, then the upshot of it would be “I was denied promotion for being a woman – that’s sexist” whereas this article seems to be suggesting that Macfarlanes do the same thing, but to men. I’d be on their side if they were saying that deserving women were sidelined but their whole argument is that of 6 promotions, 0 were women and that’s automatically wrong. And I’d be saying this just the same if it were 0 men/6 women and the article was saying men had been cheated.

Hire people for their merits, not their gender!!



Let’s just rename this site Diversity Cheek and have done with it.



Don’t forget to revise for the quiz on how many TCs each firm offers!



Bonus question: Which of firms are Top Firms?

Trick question, they all are!



This would make me more inclined to want to work at Macfarlanes. Choosing the best talent for promotion over an ethnic one here, female one here, look how inclusive we are approach.

Good on them for ignoring the harpies.



All of these comments ignore the fact that how with roughly half of the firm’s associates being female, none were the “best ones for the job”. It would be interesting to see how skewed the percentage of female associates is as PQE increases. If it drops drastically as I would expect, you have to ask yourself what about the firm is causing this? I’m sure all of you so wise-sage commenters above could have an interesting conversation with your mothers about what male-advantage looks like in the workplace. I thought lawyers were analytical….



In my opinion there are two reasons for a decrease in female representation for two reasons: firstly there were fewer women entering the profession and secondly a lot of women leave for reasons of family planning/changed priorities. Now the first has been addressed and I am the overwhelming minority as a guy in every cohort at the junior level in firms, and this will trickle to the top. The second is an issue for society and I don’t know how a firm can be expected to stop women leaving for those personal reasons, and I don’t think any women is less for choosing to raise a family over sticking out her career. Clearly it is poor PR not to promote a single woman to partner, but I can’t imagine the firm didn’t think this through and really consider the consequences of their decision.



You’re being discriminatory here. Some of us don’t have mothers.



“Could see firm drop into ‘relegation zone’ in Legal Cheek’s table”

Oh no! I’m sure they’ll be *really* upset.


Who writes this tosh?

I think this might spell the end of Macfarlanes as a City institution of some 140 years.

They better be scared.




Promoting partners is a golden opportunity to improve diversity stats? I think you misunderstand the purpose of partners and law firms for that matter.


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