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Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is set to roll out a radical mentoring scheme for its female associates in a bid to bolster the number of female partners at the firm.
Although mentoring schemes for trainees are commonplace in the City, schemes designed specifically for women are highly unusual.
Freshfields is the only magic circle firm that is planning to launch the mentoring scheme, which will involve female associates being paired up with female partners. Freshfields has already rolled out a mentoring scheme for all its trainees and associates, but according to one source the firm felt it was necessary for female associates to receive additional support to encourage more women to aim for partnership.
According to The Lawyer UK 100 Annual Report 2005, just 11.8 per cent of partners at Freshfields are female. Meanwhile, 15 per cent, 12.3 per cent and 14.7 per cent of the partner population is female at Clifford Chance, Linklaters and Allen & Overy (A&O) respectively.
A&O does not have specific mentoring schemes for its female associates. A spokesperson for A&O said the firm prefers not to recognise a split between men and women, arguing that "it can be divisive if you do one thing for women and another thing for men".
A&O has, however, introduced a number of initiatives for female fee-earners, including a coaching scheme for its maternity leavers. The pilot scheme is currently offered to all female fee-earners and senior support staff, but the firm is hoping to roll it out to all female employees.