Clifford Chance reports ‘class pay gap’

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Magic circle firm discloses average difference in pay for staff from working, intermediate and professional backgrounds for first time

Clifford Chance has reported its ‘social mobility pay gap’ data for the first time, revealing a 44.1% difference in average pay between staff from a ‘working class’ and those from a ‘professional’ background.

The firm asked employees and partners for the occupation of the main earner in their household when aged 14. The responses were then grouped into three broad categories, working class, intermediate class and professional, in line with the Office for National Statistics classifications.

Clifford Chance said the responses showed a 26% pay gap between those from a working class background and those from an intermediate background. The gap between the intermediate and professional classes was 24.4%.

The results were based on a 49% disclosure rate, meaning just under half of all UK staff responded to the question.

UK managing partner, Michael Bates, said:

“We believe that understanding more about our socio-economic diversity is crucial if we are to become the truly inclusive firm we wish to be.”

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Clifford Chance also reported its gender and ethnicity pay gaps for 2021.

The firm’s gender pay gap narrowed for employees from 19.1% to 16.6%, but widened by 1.4% to 64.9% when its high-earning partners are included.

Its ethnicity gap for partners and employees went up by 6.1% to 53.6%, but taking partners out of the equation, the firm reported a negative ethnicity gap, meaning the average pay of those from a minority ethnic background is higher than those who are white.

Bates added: “We are pleased to see the numbers shift in the right direction, but the gaps remain unsatisfactory. There is work still to do and it will take time to see more substantial changes in our data. But we believe nurturing our unique culture, and ensuring it is truly diverse and inclusive, will have the greatest impact on our ability to close our pay gaps over the coming years.”

Fellow magic circle firms Freshfields and Linklaters have disclosed their 2021 pay gap data, with both firms reporting decreases in their overall gender pay gap stats.

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MC Associate

Genuinely impressed that they would put this data together. Most law firms create “diversity” by hiring rich non-white kids from other countries, and promoting upper middle class women whose parents were lawyers. Class is the biggest diversity gap in the UK generally, but especially in the City.

I don’t really like CC as a firm, but my MC firm doesn’t track this and doesn’t really seem interested in it.



Does this include non-lawyers as well?

If so, isn’t this just a reasonably obvious reflection of the fact that non-lawyer staff earn less and are less likely to be from professional backgrounds than lawyers?



You’re getting downvoted but I’d wager it’s true just from my own personal experience.

I have friends who are at MC and US firms.

Two are from a working class background (both went to the same public/state school I attended). One is a chef in the kitchen and the other is in the billing department.

The friends I have who are lawyers at MC/US level went to private school.

I’m not saying this is reflective of the MC recruitment, it might genuinely be the case that, typically, people from working class backgrounds do not choose to be lawyers.

Also – obviously – the highest earners in any law firm will be the lawyers.


SC Trainee

“people from working class backgrounds do not choose to be lawyers.”

That statement is ridiculous – it’s not innate within poor people that they don’t want to be lawyers…

The selective recruitment from a few universities which are populated by privately educated children whose parents could afford private tutoring and good schools doesn’t really lend itself to the lack of socially mobile candidates being a choice of the working class.

I went to my local comp and to a non-russell group university, and have ended up at a very decent firm. But when I look around my peer group from school, it’s not lack of ambition that holds them back, it’s usually lack of opportunity.



I agree. This is the most stupid comment I have ever seen.

Plenty of working class people want to be lawyers, including in City firms. What is preventing them getting there is the arrogant snobbery that proliferates City law firms and their own prejudices and the HR clique, which lock out these people via the structured recruitment processes that work against them.

This profession is a club of corrupt elitists, proliferated by middle class kids, who are the “right sort of people” and whose faces fit. Most wash out for lack of stamina after 4 to 5 years of qualifying.

Then we just recruit another clone to replace them – Grammar school, private school, Russell Group – those with certain academic achievements, which are a clear indicator of socio-economic background. Then throw in a nice volunteering, hobbies and interests question on the application form so that Henrietta can talk about her fukkin “Gap Yaaaahh” in Kenya building a school and a well for Nkimbe. You know because clearly Ian from the estate has the money to take three months out on a jolly overseas during the summer, rather than working at Tesco to make ends meet.

Then we will continue to offer sponsorship to students at Queen Mary (Tower Hamlets being the personification of disadvantage) and pay some money towards their degree for a number of years, because we are so moral and virtuous. Totally and utterly pointless. We could pay money to help them to pay for the LPC/SQE which they will struggle to secure finance for unlike an undergraduate degree where they can borrow from Student Finance. No that might actually make a material difference.

This profession is so disconnected from reality at the top its a joke, and Anon’s comment is a clear reflection of that.



The point is to address that fact and consider how CC can get more people from working class backgrounds into higher earning positions, which in a law firm mostly means lawyer roles.

Rather than respond “Seems the proles beget yet more proles. Anyway, how’s PEP looking Rupert?”



Class really is the biggest diversity gap issue in the law. Yet it is so easily fixed. In this CV-blind age, you go on names, which are a clear class indicator. Just go for people called Hannah and Craig over Charlotte and Rupert.


Harvey Spectator. HA - what an original name. Get it? Because Suits!

Speak for yourself.

The server at my local kebab shop is called Reginald Woodworth III.



Really?? are names a class indicator?


Interim CEO Legal Officer Captain

When people are pushed into roles they aren’t capable of, they will inevitably suffer mental health problems.

Might this explain why so many are unhappy working in law firms?



Woe unto anyone able to get their hands on diversity data of US firms that take only a handful of trainees… The percentages do not make for comfortable (or surprising, for that matter) reading.


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