Not Made Up: Percentage of women promoted to partner at top 30 firms drops by 6%

Avatar photo

By Will Buckley on

Fewer than one in three new partners are women


Twenty-eight of the top 30 firms have now announced their 2016 partnership promotions, and the results make dispiriting reading for women anxious to reach the highest levels of the profession. While the number of promotions is steady, the percentage of women being made up is down from 38% to 32%.

Worryingly, it is the top 10 firms who must shoulder the majority of the blame, as only 77 women have been promoted to partner, a fall of over 25%. Particularly culpable are Norton Rose Fulbright, down from 19 to 12 (-37%) and Allen & Overy, down from nine to six (-33%).

At the other end of the table, the top three promoters of women numerically were DLA Piper (14), Norton Rose Fulbright (12) and CMS (12). Proportionately, DAC Beachcroft, Eversheds, Pinsent Masons, Withers, Simmons and Simmons, Clyde and Co, Irwin Mitchell and Holman Fenwick Willan were the only eight firms in which women comprised at least 40% of the new partnership intake.

Other big movers included BLP, who increased the number of women made up by 500%, albeit from the low base of one. Speaking to Legal Week (£), managing partner Lisa Mayhew said:

This really was an exceptional year but there wasn’t a change in approach compared to previous years. We have stuck to what we always have done; promoting based on merit.

Exceptional it may have been, yet women still represented fewer than 30% of the new partners at BLP.

Elsewhere, there was acknowledgement that the figures had to change. Bird & Bird recently announced plans for a new training program to boost the number of women in its partnership after promoting only a single woman in each of the last two years.

HR director Jonathan Nichols said:

It’s very much about promoting the individuals that are ready, but you can never guarantee it. We are hoping this year will be an anomaly.

The difficulty, as ever, will be in implementing long-term strategies in an industry so focused on short-term gains.