Revealed: how close firms are to reaching their gender diversity targets

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Some are doing well — next stop equality?

It’s partner promotion season.

Among the firms to have announced who is getting made up is Clifford Chance (CC). Last week the magic circle giant revealed that four out of 24 (17%) of its new partners are women, as the firm strives to reach its goal of 30% female partners globally. Currently 19% of CC partners are female (the figure is 21% in London).

With CC 11 percentage points away from reaching its goal (there is no set date by which the firm hopes to achieve this), how does this result stack up against other firms that have announced their new 2017 partners?

Let’s start with Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP), which also has a 30% target (to be achieved by next year). It is currently on 27%. The firm made up no female partners this year, though, although the pool was comparatively small, with just four (men) promoted in total. It looks like BLP has a fighting chance of achieving its target, but it will need to make up plenty of women next year.

Next up is Addleshaw Goddard, another member of the aspiring 30% club. The firm has informed us that globally its partners are 25% female. Addleshaw is aiming to reach the big 3-0 by 2019, and appears on course to potentially do so, despite promoting no women to partner this year.

Allen & Overy is also just a few percentage points away from reaching its target, though notably it’s a less ambitious one. The firm currently has 18% female partners; its target is 20% by 2020. Globally, 8% of its partner promotions this year were female.

Then there’s Pinsent Masons. The first to announce its partner promotions this year, the firm has surpassed its ‘25% by 2018’ gender target and has 26% female partners. Pinsents is now working towards obtaining 30% female partners.

CMS Cameron McKenna is also doing well on the gender diversity front. Despite not having an official target, the firm has told us that across the UK it has over 30% female partners. In its latest partner promotions round, announced yesterday, 27% of the 48 global partners made up are female. The UK figure is 40%.

Both Linklaters and Ashurst have a different approach to gender diversity targets.

The former is working towards 30% female board representatives by 2018, and also has a policy of all ongoing annual promotions to be made up of at least 30% women. The firm does not disclose what its current percentage of female partners is.

Ashurst by contrast aspires for 25% of its equity partners and 40% of its partner promotions year on year to be women by 2018. Just yesterday, the firm announced it has made up 19 partners and that four (21%) are women. Currently, 19% of the outfit’s partners are women.

2017 partner promotions so far, listed by international female partner percentage:

Name of firm New female partners (international) Does this firm have a female partners target? Firms’ current percentage of female partners
Pinsent Masons 11/16, 69% 25% by 2018 26%
Mishcon de Reya 2/3, 67% No N/A
Reed Smith 12/25, 48% No N/A
Slaughter and May 3/7, 43% No N/A
Macfarlanes 1/3, 33% No N/A
Herbert Smith Freehills 6/21, 29% 30% by 2019 Figure to be released in May
CMS Cameron McKenna 13/48, 27% No N/A
Clyde & Co 2/9, 22% No N/A
Fieldfisher 2/9, 22% No N/A
Ashurst 4/19, 21% 40% of all partner promotions to be women by 2018 19%
Linklaters 5/26, 19% 30% of all ongoing partner promotions to be women Does not disclose this data
Clifford Chance 4/24, 17% 30% long-term 19%
Allen & Overy 2/24, 8% 20% by 2020 18%
Addleshaw Goddard 0/5, 0% 30% by 2019 25%
BLP 0/4, 0% 30% by 2018 27%

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Bumblebee Crusader

Between 2012 and 2014, 335 UK/EU students attained the grade ‘Outstanding’ on the BPTC. Of those, 293-296 (87.5 – 88.4%) were white.

Between 2012/13 and 2014/15, 1,333 – 1,348 students commenced a pupillage in a England and Wales. Of those, just 1,063 (78.9 – 79.7%) were white.

Therefore, when controlling for ability, white students are significantly underrepresented when it comes to pupillage enrolment.

Legal Cheek, I know you care DEEPLY about diversity issues. Can you please investigate and report on this prima facie case of discrimination against white students.



KK doesn’t care unless it’s about gender diversity, sorry.


Rupert; a US firm trainee.

Diversity is important because clients seem to care about it for some reason. Even though my intake quite small and most of us are Oxonians, the grad rec still did a pretty good job at hitting their diversity quota, by taking that person from the other place.



American firms, rather remarkably, are not featured in the table above. I guess US firms care about profits, not one’s tone of skin or gender and do not pretend it’s otherwise.


Katie King

I am so triggered right now.



Can we please not trivialise the word ‘triggered’, it just plays into the hands of MRA (Male Rights Activists)



Actually it’s the Feminists and SJW snowflakes who trivialised a word that used to describe a legitimate psychiatric phenomenon and watered it down so that it now means “feeling slightly uncomfortable”.


The Lady Doth Protest

Sorry but I just can’t take anyone who uses the word ‘snowflake’ unironically seriously.


Snowflake detected.


I really hope this is irony



It’s partly tongue in cheek, partly serious. I’m not emotional and hysterical about the fact that white students are, prima facie, being discriminated against. It’s important to look at these things soberly, and there might well be a reasonable explanation for the quirk in the data.

However, it’s serious insomuch that it illustrates an important point. LC regularly, perhaps even religiously, insinuates racism and sexism in the profession by pointing out that various demographics are under-represented. However, these statistics are meaningless because they DON’T CONTROL FOR ABILITY.


MC(Donalds) Trainee

“Between 2012 and 2014, 335 UK/EU students attained the grade ‘Outstanding’ on the BPTC. Of those, 293-296 (87.5 – 88.4%) were white.”

87% of the population are white (2011 figures) so it would make sense for that to carry through to achievement.



Not quite sure what you’re trying to say, but the population statistics are irrelevant because not everyone sits the BPTC. Perhaps it would help you to learn that (i) only 64.5% of UK/EU BPTC enrolments are white, and (ii) white UK/EU BPTC students are more than 4x more likely to get an outstanding than their BME counterparts.


Because many non-white students are already disadvantaged in the previous 20 years of education! A high percentage does not necessarily translate to becoming a talented barrister.


The average non-white student is likely to have had less of a privileged upbringing and would be less likely to have had the opportunity to attend decent private schools compared to your average white student. This would disadvantage them and make it more of a difficult (assuming effort put in by black and white students is equal, which is fair) for those non-white students to achieve the “Outstanding” BPTC grade. When choosing who to hand a pupillage should chambers factor in the fact that someone may not have achieved an “Outstanding” BPTC grade because of the fact they didn’t go to private school or other benefits of a privileged upbringing? For me the answer to that question is yes (albeit that they should only consider this a small factor in the decision making process). The BPTC grade is a snapshot of somebodies ability at a certain time and does not consider the path someone took to get to that level and it only an indication as to their future potential to excel in law. The difference in the percentages listed are small, this difference could be explained by my logic.



Absolutely, because they succeeded in spite of considerable unfair disadvantage.

The fact that they overcame more than their privileged peers to get a similar qualification is strong evidence that they could be *better* candidates.

A similar principle should apply to Deaf and disabled people who achieve an LLB or better.

Hang on, I’m expecting diversity to be further improved, so I must be a “troll.”


Sinbad, I can see where you’re coming from, but you’ve missed an important point. Chambers need and want to recruit the best.

Let me put it like this, Maria Sharapova was identified as an excellent prospect and, from a very early age, was given access to the very best coaching and training facilities in the world.

I, on the other hand, first picked up a tennis racquet in my mid-teens. I’ve never had any formal coaching and, whilst I’m pretty good, I’m not quite on Maria Sharapova’s level.

Now, who knows. Perhaps if I had been spotted by a talent coach when I was 4 and received Sharapova’s coaching, I would now be a grand slam winner. Perhaps not. But as far as Wimbledon is concerned, it doesn’t matter. I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

Likewise, perhaps you’re right that many underprivileged BME students are poor candidates by mere virtue of their upbringing. Again, however, it doesn’t matter. Chambers aren’t looking for who can do the best with the hand they were dealt. Rather, they’re looking for who can do the best.

You can’t expect chambers to give a pupillage to someone who did fantastically well with a poor hand, just as you can’t expect Wimbledon to give me a grand slam title.

An Observation

Sorry but this reply, though seemingly intelligent, doesn’t really tackle the problem at hand here. Using your tennis analogy, what we would like to see is more young tennis players from minority backgrounds receiving equal training as their white counterparts from an early age. This would lead to more ethnic professional tennis players on the whole, increasing the chance that one of them could be the next highly talented (though perhaps morally dubious given the current news) Maria Sharapova.


With respect, this is EXACTLY what I’m saying.

I’m campaigning for equal opportunity (i.e. Everyone gets the same, exceptional training), not equal results (I.e. Everyone gets a grand slam).


The three down votes to this comment illustrates the huge problem we’re facing.


That would work if we’re talking about tennis, but we’re not.

Overcoming obstacles is a valuable skill in law and those who show especial shrewdness in overcoming obstacles should be given credit for it.


Fair enough, but only insomuch that that shrewdness makes them better candidates.

So, sticking with tennis, let’s imagine that underprivileged BME candidates grew up using tennis courts littered with broken glass and, as a result, had to learn to be more agile when traversing the court.

If this makes them better tennis players, then yes, they should be awarded more grand slams. But they should be awarded more grand slams because they are the best tennis players, NOT because they had to grow up using courts littered with broken glass.


You have provided an extreme and unrealistic tennis-based example.

I totally agree that chambers are looking for the best. Who is likely to be the best choice does not simply boil down to who is the best at a snapshot in time (the point at which the BPTC was completed). There are a number of addition factors that will contribute to their potential to be the best choice out of those who apply (including motivation, soft skills, ‘fit’ and chemistry with the rest of the team). One such factor is the hurdles/upbringing factor that acts as a caveat to the BPTC snapshot of their ability.

As I said, it isn’t a huge factor. Hence the percentage difference in the original post is ~8% and not greater.


Yes, Sinbad. We’re reaching a consensus, which is a pretty unusual occurrence for the LC comments section.

I’m not adverse to factoring in someone’s background into the decision-making process. In practice, I think that card gets overplayed, but it’s still a valid, strong and logically-robust argument, and I don’t object to it in principle. Also, you yourself seem to agree that it only has very limited value.

However, I just think it’s important to clarify that when you support giving pupillage to an underprivileged, underperforming candidate ahead of an over-privileged, over-performing candidate, you take that position because you think the former has greater aptitude/potential than the latter.

So, to go back to tennis, let’s say we’re watching Serena and Maria at Wimbledon and we need to choose the best. Let’s say that Maria narrowly beats Serena but Serena had a slight calf injury.

If we choose Serena on the basis that the calf injury is only temporary and, when at full fitness, Serena will likely beat Maria, then yes. We agree.

However, where Serena’s calf injury was caused by a motorcycle accident and has resulted in a permanent limp, I object to choosing Serena. Pupillage selection is not about redressing the imbalances of the vicissitudes of life. It’s about selecting the best.


Consensus achieved. We have achieved something great. May this be a lesson to all.

Top grade BPTC vs. next grade down = imbalance redress can be a factor that has a chance to prove decisive.

Top grade BPTC vs. barely passed = we need to be realistic, somebody is not good enough to be considered.

The Lady Doth Protest

This is such a good reply – thank you.


“However, these statistics are meaningless because they DON’T CONTROL FOR ABILITY”

I see where you’re coming from, but this sentence really bothers me – are you saying ethnically diverse candidates are intrinsically less intelligent/capable than white candidates? Because that’s what it sounds like, if I’ve misunderstood you then I apologise.



What I am saying, and it is important to be clear, is that it is wrong to ASSUME that any two demographic groups are equally capable for the exact same reason that it’s wrong to ASSUME that “ethnically diverse candidates are intrinsically less intelligent”.

Rather, we should look to the EVIDENCE. All the evidence says that, on average, white BPTC candidates are far more able than BME BPTC candidates.

I don’t speculate on the reason for that. At one extreme, perhaps it’s because white people are genetically superior. At the other extreme, perhaps it’s because we live in a racist society where, pre-BPTC, BME people face extraordinary and insurmountable prejudice. Perhaps it’s the case that exceptional BME candidates are simply less likely to apply to the BPTC than their white counterparts. There are all manner of social, economic and cultural reasons which could explain and account for the gap. We shouldn’t speculate without clear evidence, and therefore I don’t.

However, what is clear is that THERE IS DEFINITELY A GAP.

Now, I wished we lived in a colourblind society, and I will always campaign for that. I think campaigning for more BME people at the Bar is just as distasteful as campaigning for more white people at the Bar, for example.

However, I also have to be pragmatic and accept that, for whatever reason, the BSB-Media-SJW coalition is OBSESSED with people’s ethnicities and will forever refuse to ignore people’s skin colour. Therefore, baby steps are required.

If people insist on looking to colour, they should at least recognise that the only fair way to get more BME people to the Bar is to get more ABLE BME candidates to the BPTC. However, the BSB simply concentrates on getting more BME candidates to the BPTC, irrespective of ability. Likewise, the Media perpetually insinuates that the problem occurs at the BPTC/Pupillage interface, rather than far earlier in the process.


‘At one extreme, perhaps it’s because white people are genetically superior.’

Okay bye.


Me @ 12.30pm: I have no evidence to say white people are genetically superior to BME people, and so I won’t draw a conclusion that white people are genetically superior to BME people.

SJW @ 2.04pm: I’ve seen the phrase the “white people are genetically superior” but I’m not quite intelligent enough to understand the argument.

Okay bye.

An Impartial Observer

Even voicing it seems a little racist, in my humble opinion at least. Some things are just not up for debate.


No, that’s where you’re wrong. Voicing an expressly hypothetical concept cannot possibly be racist. Moreover, it is that sort of thinking, which seeks to restrict free speech, which has got us into this mess.

The fact of the matter is that there are only three possible options:

1. White BPTC candidates are, on average, more able than BME candidates;
2. BME BPTC candidates are, on average, more able than white candidates; or
3. White and BME BPTC candidates are equally able.

I long for a colourblind approach where, regardless of which of the three options is true, it would make absolutely no difference to peri- or post-BPTC policy.

The BSB-Media-SJW coalition, meanwhile, insists on assuming that 3 is true and then campaigning and implementing policies on that basis. All I’m saying is that, if you’re too fixated on people’s skin colour to adopt my colourblind approach, at least recognise that your starting assumption is wrong.

So, to draw it back to my hypothetical suggestion that one race is genetically superior to another, if you want to ignore people’s skin colour and not formulate policy according to their ethnicity – congratulations, you’re on the same side of the debate as me.

If, however, you’re so fixated with skin colour that you have to build policies according to one of the following ‘facts’…

1. White people are genetically superior to BME people;
2. BME people are genetically superior to white people; or
3. White and BME people are genetically equal.

…at least make sure that the basis upon which you’re fixing your policies is supported by evidence.


Like rain on your wedding day?



There’s no sight more pathetic and embarrassing than a whiner whining about how clever posh white males are being persecuted because they are so brilliant and intelligent (according to their own cosy little facts, set-up and context) and yet so accordingly ‘under-represented.’

It is barbecued BS in a bap served with a hefty side order of tripe.

Keep up the good work on diversity, firms, and start to include disabled people in the targets soon.



Glad you’ve got a nice bap to go with the chip on your shoulder mate.



I need neither, I have this delicious diversity to feast on.



You seem to be confused. Those facts don’t belong to “posh white males”. They’re taken from the BSB – an organisation which persistently pushes for more ‘diversity’ at the Bar.

Also, I won’t challenge or question your assertion that I’m a “pathetic and embarrassing … whiner”. However, can you please explain why what I said is “barbecued BS”.


I think Tim – who I am sure will correct me if I am wrong – is suggesting your BS was charred on the outside but cold on the inside.


Tim the troll returns



Of the people who post on legal cheek with the username Bumblebee who undertook the bar course, 100% were white and 0% got pupillage.

Why won’t legal cheek investigate this discrimination against iritating people with too much time on their hands.






You’d better hope that the next stop is not equality, else you’d have nothing to write about.


Dean the Detective

How’s Legal Cheek’s own diversity looking? Seems to be rather worse for wear.


Iami Rastafari of Counsel

Is nuttin bout Rastas who Legal Chauvinism down press all time


Black Face

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.



As a woman this really annoys me! Just hire the best people stop making it a target to just put females in seats because it looks good or they think they should! Hire who is best, if that means that they are all male then so be it, surely it’s then time for us ladies to step it up ?!



You clearly underestimate the challenges facing woman in the workplace, even today. Just because you personally haven’t encountered any discrimination based on your gender, doesn’t mean all the rest of us haven’t.


Confused White Trainee

I love you


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