UK’s top firms fail to increase female equity partner figures

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  • @ Anonymous | 12-Sep-2011 5:05 pm

    Interesting you mention Scandinavia, because in the world of law Scandinavian firms are just as bad as their UK peers. Figures we compiled for the European 100 (http://www.centaur2.co.uk/emags/thelawyer/tl_Euro100_2011/) show that there aren't many Scandinavian firms which have better female partner stats than the UK top 20 - Finland's Castren & Snellman has 27.6% female partners, but Borenius & Kemppinen has only 4% and there's a whole bunch of other Scandinavian/Nordic firms with less than 15% women in their partnership. Actually it's the Irish and the French who show best on the female partner front - although the largest proportion is still only 40% in the Euro 100.

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  • As a partner in 'poor Simmons' @5.19pm yesterday - don't quite recognise the backward step the commentator refers to - the new elected management are certainly better placed than their predecessors to appreciate the issues; and I don't see any loss of focus. Clearly the stats are disappointing; but personally I'm positive about the desire within the firm to continue to make improvements.

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  • @Anonymous | 12-Sep-2011 6:31 pm

    Anonymous recruitment may work for grads or low level associates, but I don't see how it can possibly work for internal partner decisions at law firms. Surely the candidates are generally well known enough by those making the decision that they would be able to tell whose CV it is, even without the name.

    At my company (non-law firm), we switched our grad recruitment to be name-blind 2 years ago. The number of women recruited has actually dropped (from an already pathetically low percentage) since the anonymous selection started.

    As I understand it, the problems for women lawyers don't come at the selection for TC stage (where anonymous recruitment is possible) but in terms of promotion/retention further down the line. This is as much about the decisions the women themselves make (e.g. not to attempt to become a partner) as it is about selection bias on the part of those making recruitment/promotion decisions.

    In short, there are no easy solutions.

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  • The issue is that so-called leadership qualities are those which come more naturally to males, although that is because males are judging what makes a good leader (based on their own skill-set). I would go as far to say that the skill-set required to be a competent lawyer comes more naturally to females. They say that behind every good man is a good woman. Well, the same is true in the legal profession. Men do better because they have an elevated sense of ability, and leave the detail and hard graft to the woman, delegate responsibility etc., whereas, for woman, the reverse is true. From my experience of supervising junior lawyers, females far outshine boys in every regard other than confidence. I am often frustrated by a young male lawyer's unwillingness to accept constructive feedback and making the same basic mistakes over and over again (making my job harder and fee estimates more difficult to make), but yet, have this unjustified confidence. Whereas, girls tend to excel, provide a far more efficient work product and yet are often very hard on themselves; their level of confidence does not reflect their actual level of competence. I am frustrated by the amount of mediocre male lawyers that I have come across that go on to make partnership on confidence alone and who overtake some outstanding female counterparts. Same goes for training contract interviews, I can count on one hand the number of males that perform well; whereas, the vast majority of girls are well prepared, articulate and personable. I acknowledge that I generalise and that there are outstanding male lawyers. However, my point is that a higher number of "mediocre males" seem to reach partnership when excellent females are stuck at Senior Associate level.

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  • Ms Bowles - remember how many women partners there were in Simmons when you were approaching partnership in the supposedly less-enlightened 1990s? Where did they all go to? And all those female corporate assistants? So where are they all now? And why is Simmons run now by those who were positioned (even then) as the inheritors of the firm?

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  • Anonymous @ 13-Sep-2011 4:03 pm, perhaps the skills you see in women lawyers are skills that hold you in good stead until you get to Senior Associate, are suffienct to be a very credible technical lawyer, but are not quite enough to make partner.

    As for young males being unwilling to learn, perhaps you need to unburden the chip and remember that they are half of the workforce, so perhaps you might get further if you learnt to manage them, too.

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  • Females have equal opportunities. The fact that there are less female partners is simply reflective of the fact that many females do not want to make the sacrifices required to meet client demands in a competitive market (i.e. working weekends and doing 100+ hour weeks when required). Firms need to provide round-the-clock service to compete, even more so with the rise of Asia. There are some things that are more important than work to many people (i.e. family life and health). The lower proportion of female partners is not a "failure" by anyone, but a result of a freedom of choice. If a female's aim in life is to become a partner, they already have the same opportunities as a male (if not better as many firms want to increase the proportion of female partners), but they need to make the same sacrifices.

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  • It is apparent that many people simply fail to grasp what equality means. When applied to the workplace, equality means people are treated equally and factors that are irrelevant to performance shall not be taken into account when assessing the potential and the basis of advancement of an individual in the workplace. Equality does not mean parity of gender representation throughout the ranks of an organisation. To my mind (and it is a male mind) if paternity rights were equal to maternity rights, then the career playing field (in respect of gender) would become far more level (there are other issues that also need to be dealt with, but positive discrimination is as far from equality as any other type of discrimination).

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  • I must disagree with the idea that females have entirely equal opportunities. Even if men were to share childcare equally (which amongst my colleagues and friends is extremely rare), it is the woman who must take a significant amount of time off to give birth to and feed a child. The mere fact that a 30-something woman may have to take time off to have children whereas a 30-something man is not renders them less attractive for promotion. This is exacerbated when the woman does take maternity leave, handing over files and losing contact with clients and prospective clients.

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  • I don't know why anyone would be surprised at these figures. It's still a boy's club out there. And by the way, 50% of the equity in my firm is female. And 50% of fee earners. It can be done. You've just got to want to do it. .

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