The Berwin Leighton Paisner-Bryan Cave merger, should it eventually go through, would make a little bit of history. It would be the first major transatlantic merger steered through with two women at the helm.
In the UK, Lisa Mayhew has been navigating tricky waters since succeeding Neville Eisenberg in 2015, with BLP seeking to maintain its position as a big player and in need of a US merger to take it to the next level. Over in the States, Therese Pritchard has led Bryan Cave since 2014.
The two have common ground in their interest in diversity. Mayhew has been vocal about diversity within law and was a key figure behind BLP’s move to set a target of achieving a 30 per cent female partnership by 2018.
Meanwhile, Pritchard has previously spoken about the time a man got promotion ahead of her and she was told that it was because he had a family to support – even though she had a husband and child as well. Her firm made the decision to focus on diversity as one of its three strategic priorities in 2015, with the aim of appointing many more women in leadership roles.
Though at partner level the US firm is still more Bryan than Bryony, it has made progress bringing other women through the ranks. The firm does especially well on the gender front in London, headed up by Carol Osborne. Five of the 13 London partners are female (38 per cent), though at one point that figure was eight of 16. Having female leaders at the firm “definitely makes a difference. Whether it’s lawyers’ colour, women, LGBT – it’s important for young lawyers to see someone at the firm who looks like them,” Osborne told The Lawyer earlier this year.
Five other Bryan Cave offices have female managing partners – Dallas, Hong Kong, Irvine, St Louis and Washington DC.
Overall though, BLP beats its American suitor for female representation. Nearly 27 per cent of the partnership is female, compared to 21 per cent at Bryan Cave (more or less the average for a US firm).
At associate level BLP is 59 per cent female, while at Bryan Cave the male:female ratio is almost exactly 50:50.
The merger would scupper BLP’s 2018 goal for a 30 per cent female partnership – but in terms of the gender diversity long game, the two firms look to be a cultural match.