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Clifford Chance announces 40% female, 15% ethnic minority and 3% LGBTQ+ partner targets

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Magic circle firm looks to set new industry standard

Clifford Chance (CC) has today announced a series of targets for gender, ethnicity and LGBTQ+ inclusion.

The magic circle firm aims to have at least 40% female partners globally by 2030. Other levels throughout the firm, including to counsel, senior associates, associates, business professional directors and leadership groups, will be expected to reach this 40% target by 2025.

At present, according to the Legal Cheek‘s Firms Most List, CC has 24% UK female partners. The percentage is lower in most of the other jurisdictions in which the firm has a presence.

CC has also introduced its first-ever ethnic minority and LGBTQ+ targets. By 2025 the firm wants 15% of new partners and 30% of senior associates to be from ethnic minority backgrounds.

There is an LGBTQ+ target too, with CC aiming for 3% of partners globally to be LGBTQ+ by 2025.

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Matthew Layton, global managing partner at Clifford Chance, said: “Creating an inclusive environment is at the heart of our Clifford Chance values, and is good for our industry, our firm, our colleagues and our clients. While we are making progress, and are proud of doing so, I recognise that today, inclusion and equality of opportunity isn’t the lived experience for many of our people and we have to do much better.”

Layton continued:

“To make the change that our people, our clients and society expect from us, we need to be actively campaigning and forging positive, inclusive environments which are enriched by the diversity of our people. We have already seen how we can use data to focus attention on our inclusion challenges and their root causes. Our new targets will be a powerful catalyst for the change we want to see and I hope they will set a new standard for our industry.”

Tiernan Brady, global director of inclusion at Clifford Chance, added:

“Behind the targets announced today is a tailored set of initiatives that represents a comprehensive strategy to deliver greater inclusion. The top of our firm needs to look like the rest of the firm and the societies we are based in. It is both a core value and an economic imperative, and it is the future for the legal sector.”

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48 Comments

MC NQ

To reach this target well over half of partner promotions be female.

I would not be sticking around if I were a white, male, straight CC associate wanting to become partner. The odds are not in your favour.

(68)(16)

James Kitching

I guess it depends if you’re good enough or not.

(10)(26)

Joe

Good riddance

(8)(22)

Supporting diversity

Bye then 👋🏽

(0)(26)

Disabled Person

No disability target I see.

(23)(3)

Tim

This. X1000.

Disability is always overlooked.

(0)(4)

Mr. Cunningham

Why not hire the best regardless of gender, skin-colour, and sexual orientation?

(49)(15)

Anon

That’s exactly what they’re aiming to do. To stop racial bias at the top unfortunately you have to put targets in place.

(18)(49)

Anonymous

So no target for male partners by the looks of it.

(14)(5)

Billy

There is a target for male partners, and it is the same as the target for female partners – 40%.

(6)(12)

Anonymous

Thanks Billy, fair point. Also, there is a 40% male target for associates, which the article also doesn’t mention.

(2)(6)

Anon

There are male ethnic minorities.

(6)(3)

Anonymous

That’s the straight white working class lads screwed over yet again. No virtue-signalling marketing spin for them.

(56)(17)

Anon

Not like there are many of us in the industry anyway.

(3)(0)

Anon

Over 15 years – what a joke . This statement is absolutely pointless other than getting some on trend PR.

(3)(9)

Anon

That is how long it would take absent actively discriminating against other groups in society, the white, the male, the straight etc. Are you in favour of actively discriminating on basis of race, sex and sexual orientation?

(13)(0)

Jarrod

Yes. The balance needs to be redressed. It will not be great for some people in the immediate term – but those are the people that have benefited from the crooked system that put them there in the first place. It is just making things fair and balanced again.

(7)(45)

Enlightened Swallow

Ah. Yes. The system just needs a new type of crook… I see.

(8)(4)

And Justice for All

Uh, hang on. How can the people who it “will not be great for” (i.e. the people not being made partners) also be “the people that have benefited from the crooked system that put them there in the first place” (i.e. the people who are already partners)? You make the classic social justice error of treating groups as individuals and individuals as groups. That is insanity.

(19)(1)

Anon And On

Whether the timeline is one year or 15 makes no difference; you cannot set targets like this and expect them to be achieved naturally, irrespective of how long you give yourself.

The 15 years is readily explained by the fact that this is the professional lifetime typically remaining of those taking the decisions, who don’t want to risk any adverse consequences for PEP falling on them, only on those that come after.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Do they have a target for Northerners as well?

(20)(2)

Anonymous

Targeting 30% of senior associates to be ethnic minorities – that’s far higher than their share of the population, especially in that age cohort.

(34)(7)

Michael Gove

International law firms don’t just hire Brits. And don’t have to abide by British population demographics

(9)(22)

Anonymous II

13% of Britons are ethnic minorities. Even if you look at the population at Russel Group unis to include the international students (most of whom go back home in the case of non-Europeans), it’s no more than 25%. A *generous* proportion of qualified ethnic minority UK and foreign graduates entering the UK workplace would be 15-20%.

30% makes no sense at all…

(17)(0)

Just Anonymous

Diversity is great if it arises from equality of opportunity.

Diversity is worthless if it arises from quotas. Or ‘targets’.

Also, even if quotas and targets were appropriate per se, I struggle to see any appropriate basis for a target that 30% of senior associates be ethnic minority by 2025. As of 2011, ethnic minorities only made up around 13% of the population. While that figure has probably increased, there is absolutely no way it will have increased to anything like 30% by 2025.

On the assumption that ethnic minorities are just as competent on average as the non-ethnic majority (no more and no less), I simply do not see how you can meet that target without actively discriminating against that majority,

Discrimination does not cease to be discrimination just because it’s done to a majority.

(52)(5)

Parcel Fish

I think it means 30% of *new* associates will be from ethnic backgrounds. It doesn’t look like there is a target for the UK or global group.

(1)(2)

Just Anonymous

That does not contradict my point.

Even if the target is only for new associates, you still can’t meet that target without active discrimination against the non-ethnic majority, given that ethnic minorities will still constitute significantly less than 30% of the population.

(17)(3)

Parcel Fish

It won’t be discriminatory if all of the people being promoted, whether or not they are from an ethnic background, are good enough for the job. Which of course they will be.

(7)(28)

Anon

It’s globally, not UK. Globally, “white” people are only just shy of 20% of the population. Taking the countries where the firm has offices only (which is probably the most sensible figure) will be somewhere in the middle.

(6)(2)

Anonymous

The use of the phrase “ethnic minority” suggests that the firm won’t be recruiting these people from non-white majority countries.

(5)(2)

Anon And On

Thinking globally, could CC please clarify if the target for female partners applies in the Middle East?

(0)(0)

Anon

CC is an international law firm with offices across the globe, why should they have a majority white staff base??? On the flip side if you were just going to consider their HQ, BAME makes up nearly half the population in London and doesn’t solely hire British people.

(6)(14)

CommonSense

To set any target based on gender or ethnicity is, respectively, sexist or racist.

(37)(12)

Chad

If I’m the GC at a PE firm (which I will be one day) I want the best lawyers. I want lawyers who are resilient, aggressive, and will strike the best deals for me. I don’t care about their gender or what they do at the weekend. I’m not interested in virtue signalling. CC will suffer as a result of this.

(47)(20)

Anonymous

The your company needs a better GC. Looking for lawyers laden with testosterone adjectives is such a cliché and does not produce best long term results for your business.

(15)(25)

Spam Spaffer

PE seems to be doing just fine with the amount of testosterone it currently has, thanks very much.

(8)(3)

Chad

You wouldn’t last 2 minutes in this cauldron, sonny. You should see what goes on behind closed doors. Physical altercations are common in the PE world. There’s so much testosterone and alpha males dominate.

(5)(2)

Anonymous

We do know you are all nerds filling in the blanks on templates. PE needs no thought.

(12)(0)

Alpha Female

I’ve been known to throw a bottle of Dom at the other side when they’ve not accepted demands.

No one questions my authority in the arena.

(0)(1)

Realist

In response to “Chad’s” comment, he is partially-correct: most clients do not care about diversity: diversity is a political position masquerading as a legitimate commercial objective. For example, the interpretation of the ISDA Master Agreement does not differ depending on what colour skin you have. Most commercial clients therefore don’t care. There are exceptions: some large, virtue-signalling FTSE 100 companies will see PR value in encouraging their panel firms to tick boxes. Most people simply want the best lawyers, though. I wouldn’t want my child to be operated on by a surgeon who is diversity hire, why would I want my £multi-million merger led by a similarly-overpromoted lawyer?

In the medium term though, regarding recruiting and retention, white, male associates in CC should explore escape options in the coming years (this is a 15-year plan, there’s no rush). They will be competing on an uneven playing field, so it makes sense to get out. On the other hand, those who fall within the target demographic now have stronger reasons to apply to CC than other firms.

The problem from prospective clients’ perspective is that CC has now explicitly said that it looks to promote people for reasons other than merit. I wouldn’t be instructing them, as I wouldn’t trust the quality of the people. Partner quality will also suffer because high-quality partners will have the option to move to more lucrative firms which don’t shackle their profitability with political correctness.

I think this is a superficially clever short-term PR move by CC which is likely to backfire in the medium to long term.

(39)(11)

Anon

In 15 years you are going to see a rapid change in the senior management of the client’s businesses too – who do you think female and BAME leaders will look to instruct in future?

What you’re failing to understand is that people at these elite firms have not been promoted solely on merit previously. A lot of them operate like boy’s clubs with white males being given work on a preferential basis not due to merit, but due to socialising more with senior management or attending the right schools (there are some schools that have special ties they wear to interviews to give them a better chance of success – pathetic). I’ve seen it firsthand.

The majority of firms will follow suit. It is a fool’s view to think those who are not white males are incompetent, just because they’re in privileged positions and don’t face oppression.

(23)(48)

Eddy

What about working class straight white male lawyers at CC (i.e. me)? I certainly don’t have the advantages of the old boys club or wearing the right tie; I certainly didn’t get here through a privileged position; yet I also won’t have the advantages of positive discrimination.

(19)(5)

Bart Simpson

You will be fine. So you didn’t go to private school and aren’t from London – big deal – your type is not as rare or marginalised as you make out. You most likely still went to Doxbridge/Bristol/Warwick and dropped your northern accent ages ago. Partnerships are full of people like you.

Anon

CC getting predictably hammered for showing some leadership. How is aiming for 40% female partners and 15% of NEW partners BME a bad thing exactly given the longstanding underrepresentation of these groups at senior levels in the legal profession?

So they missed disabled and working class. Not great but better they’ve done something than nothing.

(21)(36)

Lord A-Sumption

Assumptions:
1. c.400 partners in 2020 with no growth until 2024 and then 1 extra partner a year to equal c.406 partners in 2030
2. c.20% of partners are women in 2020 = 80, growing to 162 in 2030 (40% of 406)
3. 25 partners retiring a year (5 female and 20 male until 2024, then 6 female and 19 male until 2030 – reflecting current partner gender ratio and mild improvement as more female partners reach retirement age)
4. 25 partners made up each year to 2024, then 26 each year to 2030
5. net growth of (162-80)/10 female partners needed every year: therefore 5 (to make up for retirement) + 8 new female parters every year until 2024, and from then on 6 + 8

Results: for 2020-2024, 53% (13/25) of partnership hires will need to be female, then to 2030 55% (14/25) of partnership hires will need to be female

*holds popcorn while assumptions and back of the envelope maths are torn apart*

(4)(0)

An MC insider

The comments on this page are deeply troubling, especially given it’s coming from those who would need strong commercial acumen and knowledge of how the legal market is changing.

In 15 years you are going to see a rapid change in the senior management of the client’s businesses – who do you think female and BAME leaders will look to instruct in future?

What a lot of you are failing to understand is that people at these elite firms have not been promoted solely on merit previously. It is a fool’s view to think those who are not white males are incompetent, just because they’re in privileged positions.

A lot of the elite firms have historically operated like boy’s clubs with white males being given work on a preferential basis not due to merit, but due to socialising more with senior management or attending the right schools (there are some schools that have special ties they wear to interviews to give them a better chance of success – pathetic). I’ve seen it firsthand.

The majority of firms will follow suit, you will find those who don’t will be left behind.

(20)(45)

Anonymous

(3)(0)

Bi fishing

How will the relevant characteristics be determined? Will it be possible to hold oneself out as being bisexual, when in fact one is not?

(5)(4)

Comments are closed.

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