The partner problem means law firm gender pay gap stats are pretty useless

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A clutter of results impossible to compare

As the April deadline for gender pay gap reporting fast approaches, the inclusion of partners in law firms’ releases has, suddenly, become the norm.

When data began to trickle through from the first few City outfits back in January, partner pay was firmly off the agenda. This is because the law compelling major firms to release their pay stats, the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017, specifies employee data. Law firm partners are not employed, so don’t need to be included.

So they weren’t, at first, until people began to question whether this was fair when major retailers and other companies were posting pay gaps inclusive of their mega-earning directors. The Big Four, after facing similar pressure, published their partner figures, too.

Concern on this was voiced by the likes of Inga Beale, the chief executive of Lloyd’s of London. She questioned why the reporting requirements provided “a carve-out” for partners, who are the most senior, most well paid and the most male-dominated of all lawyers. The vice president and soon-to-be president of the Law Society, Christina Blacklaws, also came out in favour of partner-inclusive pay data, suggesting that this could be used more effectively than employee-only data.

The 2018 Firms Most List

Bowing to pressure, a number of firms who had previously released their pay stats excluding partners have now revised their positions.

Travers Smith‘s mean pay gap has now quadrupled from 14.8% to 60.5% since it included its partner ranks, the firm having said it felt “appropriate to provide full disclosure of the gender pay gap”. Pinsent Masons, as previously reported, did something similar.

Other firms that have released their reports more recently, like Simmons & Simmons, have included the figures for their highest earners straight off the bat. Its gender pay gap for partners alone is 14.8% mean and 28.8% median, while its employee figure is 26.1% mean and 27.9% median.

Eversheds Sutherland has also recently published its gender pay stats, including figures for partners. The newly-merged firm says its female equity partners earn (mean) 10.3% more than their male counterparts (or 8% median); its gender pay gap across its employees is 23.2% mean and 25.4% median.

As for Dentons, the world’s largest firm by lawyer headcount, its female partners earn, mean, 23% less than its male partners, and 22% median. The global outfit’s employee-wide gender pay gap was 22% mean and 34% median. Over at HFW, the mean figure its female partners are paid per hour is 8.7% lower than the comparable figure for men, while the median is 28.2%. Data excluding partners shows a mean pay gap of 17.4% and a median of 30.9%.

These recent statistics may, you might think, quell the concern expressed by the likes of Beale. But note that all of these firms — plus earlier releasers like Irwin Mitchell and Reed Smith — have included partner stats adjunct to their employee data rather than offering one figure with all their workforce included. Is offering two gender pay gaps, one for employees and one for partners, any less of “a carve-out” than not including the latter at all?

Other firms have taken the decision to include all of their partner and employee data in one figure. Proponents of this approach include Travers Smith, mentioned above, as well as Clifford Chance, Norton Rose Fulbright and Pinsent Masons. But even within this gang, there’s differences in how the figures are calculated (this to do with whether bonuses are looked at separately from average hourly rate).

Then there’s the swathe of firms who haven’t included partners at all, i.e. almost everyone that released data early on. Kirkland & Ellis — which only published its stats today — makes no mentions of its partnership in its 33.2% mean and 68.2% median gender pay gap.

The raison d’être of mandatory reporting is to develop an evidence base from which steps can be taken to reduce the gender pay gap. How easy one can do so using cluttered results produced by a myriad of calculations remains to be seen.

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Not Amused

Trying to pretend that the whole of society should fit a 50:50 model (although conveniently ignoring whenever the disproportionate number favours the allegedly ‘good’ gender) and working backwards in order to *prove* discrimination is extremely silly and has been comprehensively rejected by the British public.

It remains a mystery why certain journalists nonetheless remain intent on pushing this nonsense on an unwilling public.



Are you male by any chance?



Is that an ad hominem by any chance?



NA is a man. Although he likes to pretend he is a woman when it suits his agenda



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



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



Just saying something is “extremely silly” and that it has “been rejected” doesn’t make it true. Get off your high horse and give some actual reasons for your viewpoint.

Personally, I think that the argument against equality of representation (whether that be gender, ethnic background, or class) as a good per se is harder to make in law than in other fields because lawyers have a constitutional role in assisting the courts and in producing judges and therefore shaping the law. It’s problematic that the law should be made by an unrepresentative subset of the country’s demographics.

But as a young female lawyer, my primary reason for wanting useable published information about the gender pay gap is that I think it would be helpful from a perspective of career planning. From a purely practical viewpoint, if inequality is introduced by discrimination then I’d like to try to avoid places that are discriminatory, and if it’s introduced by differing choices made by men and women, then it’s helpful to know what those choices are and whether they are ones I want to repeat.

I’d like to see a breakdown of gender and pay at each step of the ladder. A global percentage is not useful when it includes all employees of a firm or all fee earners — I’d like to know if there is a gap between NQs/5 yr PQE/10yr PQE/partners etc. The numbers of women at each of these levels is also relevant, but a slightly different issue. If it’s defensible that men get paid more at a given level or that women drop out (and yes, it is possible to think of non-discriminatory reasons as well as discriminatory ones), then there shouldn’t be any problem with having the information out there, so we can work out whether (1) there is a potential problem and (2) what the reason for it is. But at the moment, things are still opaque.


Just Anonymous

“The raison d’être of mandatory reporting is to develop an evidence base from which steps can be taken to reduce the gender pay gap.”

Why do we want to reduce the gender pay gap?

It has not been demonstrated that the gender pay gap is evidence of sexism.

Legal Cheek, please consider this a polite challenge: write an article persuading us that the gender pay gap is a problem, which must be addressed.



This is an exceptionally good comment.



Does JA ever not talk sense?


Big Dolla


Thanks JA.

Although I do actually agree.



It has been known on occasion.



One of the dullest articles I’ve ever read. TLDR: a rehash of previous stats plus a moan from KK about the stats.


Corbyn. Sympathiser

We need an article now on the pay gap between proletariat lawyers and bourgeois lawyers. I suspect our Tory government is hiding this with the gender pay smokescreen, but I’m on to their plot.



Whoever it is who keeps pretending to be Corbyn.Sympathiser, just stop. You’re not very good at it and it’s fucking boring.


Corbyn. Sympathiser

Bugger off.



I have to dlit I don’t understand why people still talk about the wage gap. Even more so in the legal market, where your wage depends so much on your performance.

We know for a fact that when you do the research properly and crunch the numbers, the actual wage gap for the exact same job, worked the same amount of hours, is much more reduced, something like 2 to 5%, which can be attributed to difference in performance, personality, relation with the executive, and what have you.

How ludicrous is it to get crazy about the wage gap when you put mega-partners alongside para-legals/secretary, just to act offended. Of course those jobs wo the havr the same salary!

I feel like there’s a bit of clickbait tendency, and LC would gain a bit of standing by doing some proper analysis on actual subjects, rather than some clickbait articles that barely surpass Konbini in terms of quality or politically drive behind it.

Best regards,



Jobs won’t have the same salary*

Bloody autocorrect


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