HSF targets 30 per cent female partnership by 2019

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has unveiled plans to boost gender diversity across the firm by targeting a 30 per cent female partnership, setting an interim goal of 25 per cent within the next three years.

The target was put forward by the firm’s management committee with the aim of widening the ‘talent pool’ from which partners at the firm are promoted. In 2012/13 19.3 per cent of the firm’s partners were women.

Joint CEO David Willis said: “These targets have tangible benefits for the whole business – as well as promoting the best talent, they will help us meet the needs of our clients and bring diverse perspectives to our business and the business of clients.”

HSF became the first top-10 UK firm to appoint a female CEO after it named global head of disputes Sonya Leydecker as its next co-chief last December (19 December 2013).

The firm is the second this month to announce it is aiming to increase gender diversity. Less than two weeks ago Pinsent Masons said it was targeting a 25 per female partnership by 2018, with the aim of hitting 30 per cent in the future (3 March 2014).

Baker & McKenzie launched a similar plan to double female partner numbers last year (26 April 2013), aiming to double its female partner figure from 15 per cent to 30 per cent.

Getting women into partnerships remains a stubborn problem for law firms, which have struggled to push the number above 20 per cent. In 2013, 17.6 per cent of partners in the UK top 20 were women, dropping to just 13 per cent of equity partners (2 September 2013).

The issue is high on the agenda for firms. Last year The Lawyer predicted that women would still represent less than 20 per cent of partners in the UK top 20 law firms by 2018 and that there would be no female global managing partners or CEOs.

Despite that, firms seem to see the way ahead as target-led, with quotas shunned by many. One Linklaters partner did speak out for quotas last year. Nicola Rabson described the method of positively discriminating to push up the number of women in top roles as “the only way things will change” (1 April 2013).

Female partner proportions, UK top 20
Firm Female partners (%) Female equity partners (%)
  2012/13 2011/12 2012/13 2011/12
Allen & Overy 15.2 14.6 14.0 13.8
Ashurst 13.6 13.8 Not disclosed 14.3
Berwin Leighton Paisner 18.4 16.7 11.0 10.4
Bird & Bird 22.3 23.0 13.9 13.5
Clyde & Co 18.5 15.2 10.1 8.3
CMS 18.4 17.8 13.7 12.5
DAC Beachcroft 27.7 23.8 23 21.6
DLA Piper 18.0 19.7 12.3 30.8
Eversheds 21.9 22.7 15.0 15.0
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer 11.4 11.9 11.2 11.7
Herbert Smith Freehills 19.3 17.0 17.4 10.7
Hogan Lovells 21.9 21.5 19.7 18.5
Irwin Mitchell 23.8 31.0 25.4 21.9
Linklaters 15.4 15.2 14.7 14.8
Norton Rose Fulbright 22.1 21.2 19.8 13.3
Pinsent Masons 19.8 20.7 12.7 11.7
Simmons & Simmons 12.8 14.3 10.3 8.0
Taylor Wessing 14.0 15.8 Not disclosed 8.1