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Herbert Smith Freehills sets ‘bold’ 35% gender partnership target

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As Gowling WLG and Simmons & Simmons reveal strong female representation in latest promotion rounds

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has confirmed a “bold” new female partnership target as it reaffirmed its commitment to gender diversity across its senior ranks. The global firm said it hoped women will comprise at least 35% of its global partnership by May 2023.

The ambitious new gender goal comes just weeks after it narrowly missed out on its target of a 30% female partnership by 2019. The 27 office-outfit — which promoted 22 lawyers to partner last month, including eight women — now has 478 partners in total, of which 26% are female.

“I am very proud to say that the number of women in our partnership has increased from 81 to 124 in the five years since we set the original targets”, said Mark Rigotti, CEO of HSF. “The results show that we have had real success in highlighting and addressing the issue of gender diversity in our partnership pipeline and in the partnership, in a way which was not previously the case.”

In the five years since HSF set the targets, one of the first firms to publically do so, it has seen a 53% increase in the number of women in its partnership. A full breakdown of UK female partner percentages by firm can be found on Legal Cheek‘s Firms Most List 2019.

Rigotti continued:

“As a firm we pride ourselves on being at the forefront of continuously pushing for better gender diversity. Targets should be aspirational and set to stretch and drive significant change. I believe our new higher target of 35% will do just that and keep the momentum going.”

News of HSF’s improved gender partnership target comes less than 24 hours after two City firms revealed strong female representation in their latest partner promotion rounds.

Simmons & Simmons said it had achieved its aim of ensuring 40% of all new partners were female (six out of 15), while 60% of partner promotions at Gowling WLG were female (six out of ten).

The 2019 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

56 Comments

LGBT Lesley

What about their LGBT targets? This should be at least 15%

Tim

What about their disabled targets? This should be at least 99%

Tyrone

What about their BAME targets? They should be aiming to perfectly reflect the demography of the British Isles.

Anonymous

Lolz at affirmative action.

Anonymous

As if 35% is “bold”. Half the population are female but let’s make sure just over a third are partners in some years. What about stop promoting distinctly average men?

Anonymous

So what is the split by gender of lawyers eligible for partner at HSF?

Anonymous

So how do people become eligible for partners at HSF?

Anonymous

If you don’t know you’re not going to be able to contribute meaningfully to any discussion on whether or not promotions to partnership are fair.

Steven Seagull

How about they drop all targets, and just promote the best candidates (be they women or men). So theoretically, all those promoted could be men in a given year. Or they could be women. It would depend on who was the best, not targets or ‘equality’.

Anonymous

Well “best” is highly subjective and can quite often mean “person who talks like me”, “person who went to my school”, “person who’s never taken parental leave” or “person who very senior partner X supports”. Until you can reduce partnership selection to numbers (hint: you obviously can’t) there is no completely objective measure on which to say person X is the “best” compared to person Y.

None of these firms are promoting bad people into the partnership just because they are women. Lots of them miss their targets for that exact reason. The purpose of having a target is as something to aim towards by making sure you support talented women coming up through the ranks. If a firm has failed to do that, it’s not then promoting untalented people. It’s just failing its own self-set target.

Mountains of quite average upper class white men make it into partnership ahead of women and people not from those backgrounds.

Steven Seagull

Precisely why my post had no bias toward promoting women or men. They should promote the best.

And if that means you have to put them through 2 weeks of exams, tests and interviews to find out that’s what they should do.

And then let the chips fall where they may.

Anonymous

Sexist prick.

Anonymous

What is your definition of “best” though?

Perhaps these firms think part of being the “best” people include fostering a diverse group of partners. That certainly makes a lot of business sense given that clients are highly diverse and expect the same from their lawyers.

Unless you can provide some other specific definition of the “best” it does seem like you are just protesting against having more women partners rather than in favour of meritocracy, though I don’t think that is your intention.

Anonymous

I think you’re making some highly sexist remarks here, as you seem to suggest that clients would prefer to have a women come to meetings for eye candy, and firms should pander to that. That’s wrong, and I’ve never heard of this happening. Even if it did, frankly, firms should refuse to work for any such clients.

Anonymous

Sorry, attacking the mentally disabled doesn’t add a lot to your credibility. It just makes you into a bully.

I can’t believe that such openly sexist remarks like these are still around these days. Perhaps you would’ve been happier back in the ’70s, or on a building site, cat calling passing women?

Anonymous

They will have to “stretch and drive significant change” in women’s personal priorities and life choices if they want to do this and remain as profitable as at present. Women have a more balanced outlook on life generally and this is bad for PEP.

Anonymous

What about aiming for 13% Black, Asian, Mixed or Other ethnic groups in partnership to reflect the wider UK population?

tolstoy

No one cares mate soz

Anonymous

I wonder whether you would make that comment if your name and form was attached to it. Probably not.

tolstoy, partner at rosskoy llp

But this includes my name lmaooo

loljkm8

Competence > quotas

Anonymous

I’d imagine all partnership track men will be looking at the door right now

Diversity Champion

How about linking the percentage to socio-economic status. What about white working class boys? I’m sure there’s plenty of women with professional parents who’ve attended ‘nice’ schools and so on who don’t seriously have all that much of a battle to get there. This is constantly overlooked. Likewise the hiring of international students from West Africa doesn’t do much to deal with this.

Anonymous

How about focussing on a target of 100% of partners who are good at their jobs, regardless of what boxes they tick on the diversity stats?

Anonymous

Agreed, but that means removing quite a lot of upper class white men from partnerships and replacing them with more able women who work for them. You’d presumably be well on board with that?

Yaboi

Is that assumption based on any evidence? Or just your own musings?

Anonymous

Fairly confident it based on gender stereotyping rather than evidence.

Anonymous

Based on my own experiences as a magic circle solicitor so not an assumption mate. Why are you triggered by facts?

Anonymous

Lol at the obvious lie. It’s “Magic Circle”, with capital letters. Fraud.

Anonymous

You haven’t provided any facts. Just prejudiced opinions unsupported by any evidence.

Anonymous

The alternative view is that the partnership of city firms does not contain a large number of underwhelming upper class white men. I’m not sure how one would evidence this extraordinarily unrealistic opinion.

Clearly none of you work in city law or you’d be well aware of this fact.

Anonymous

If it was so obviously true it would be easy to evidence.

Yaboi

When losing the argument, claim that the other side is ‘triggered’.

Hope you aren’t a litigator ‘mate’.

Anonymous

I’m not your mate.

Harwey

But you are. 🍆

Anonymous

I’m not an aubergine.

Bob

They will go down the tubes selecting partners on such faddish and vacuous grounds.

Anonymous

One thing that doesn’t get as much attention (because the ‘gender gap’ is in favour of women) is that female partners at HSF receive higher bonuses than male partners.

City trainee

But doesn’t that kind of make it worse? If the women are all getting bonuses, why aren’t they seeing that reflected in partner promotions?

Anonymous

These women were promoted to partner. Female partners received higher bonuses than male partners.

Anonymous

Perhaps their female solicitors should stop having children, marrying rich men and leaving the profession. Then they would not have to worry about quotas to push women over men and promote because of talent and value.

Alisha - law student and young woman

Who are these 7 people liking this comment? Where do these people come from and why are you and them hate women so much?

Anonymous

Why do you think, or imply that you think, that the comment shows a hatred for women? Surely you agree that women leave the profession for those reasons more than men. Its a reality that should be discussed.

A Dapper Chap

Equality of opportunity, not the equality of outcome. Daft policies such as this could potentially have dire consequences for businesses. Plus it’s incredibly degrading and patronising for women.

Anonymous

It’s a buisness. Best means who generates the most income for the firm. If X has an own client following worth £1m a year and Y does not and you promote Y to partnership instead of X then you would expect X to leave, taking their clients with them and join another firm / set up their own firm.

Anonymous

Most city law firms recent intakes of trainees (e.g. past 2 years) have been majority female in the range of 60%-70%. Maybe this is because of women tend to outperform in university but still that does not explain the disproportion completely. Diversity initiatives definitely played a role.

My worry is that we might be disadvantaging the present generation men to correct a past generation(s) mistake, which is hardly fair to them.

City trainee

The problem is that society still overwhelmingly tells women that they ought to be present in order to be good mothers. I don’t think it’s even sexist promotion choices a lot of the time. I think it’s difficult for women to advance because childcare in the UK is hideously expensive and it makes it even harder to justify the decision to return to work post-maternity, even if you don’t build in the burden of guilt.

Not sure how any diversity policy is realistically going to change that.

Anonymous

Indeed, it would need to become more societally acceptable (including by a lot of women) for men to take career breaks to bring up children. Most ‘diversity initiatives’ don’t address this and discriminate against men.

Bob

Women ought to be present to be good mother’s. You can’t fax or email motherhood.

Random passer-by

Fair point. If I could add, some feminists think it is the fault of men and the patriarchy that women feel guilt about returning to work after having children. Apparently society is so terrible, and the ‘judgemental’ looks are so bad and ‘violent’ that it constitutes discrimination against women.

2pqe US Associate

law is actually awful and people should get out while they can.

2pqe US Associate

yes writing this while at the desk ‘living the dream’ at one of the top US firms…

Trainee

How embarrassing to aim to be so far below mediocre in 5 years’ time

Anonymous

?

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