The proportion of women at Europe’s biggest law firms has continued to rise but that increase has slowed, The Lawyer’s European 100 2017 reveals.
In 2016 no firms had a majority female partnership. In 2015 women represented over 50 per cent of the partnership at French firms Fromont-Briens and Lefèvre Pelletier. The former merged with Littler Mendelson, taking it out of the rankings, and the latter’s merger with CGR Avocats reduced the proportion of women in the partnership.
In 2012 women made up 16.5 per cent of partners in the European 100 firms. That proportion rose to 16.8 per cent in 2013 and 18 per cent in 2014. In 2015 women represented 18.9 per cent of the European partnership.
In 2016 this figure rose to 19.5 per cent, the smallest increase since 2013. On the plus side, the number of firms where women represent more than 30 per cent of the partnership has risen substantially year-on-year. A total of 17 firms, up from 11 in 2014 and 2015, broke this barrier last year.
The most diverse partnership in Europe last year was that of Cremades & Calvo-Sotelo, with the Spanish firm’s eight women partners making up 44 per cent of its small, 18-strong partnership. Cremades reported the biggest percentage point increase in the proportion of women in the partnership, up from 25 per cent the previous year.
In total, 53 firms saw an increase, however slight, in the proportion of women in their partnerships. But 33 reported a reduction. After LPA-CGR’s drop, SKW Schwarz saw the greatest fall, with its female partnership proportion dropping 6.8 percentage points from 14.3 per cent to 8.3 per cent. At the remaining firms, there was no change in female partner numbers. Darrois Villey was again the only firm in the European 100 with no female partners, although the firm hired Carine Dupeyron from August Debouzy at the start of 2017 and is seeking to improve its diversity statistics. As in previous years, France and Ireland prove to be the most-diverse jurisdictions. Of the 17 firms where women represent over 30 per cent of the partnership, six are French and six Irish.
At the opposite end of the scale, of the 15 firms where women represent less than 10 per cent of the partnership, five are Swiss and six are German. Managing partners suggest that this can be accounted for due to the length of time it takes to graduate in these countries, which often leaves women trying to juggle having children and becoming partner at the same time.
That said, diversity is on the agenda for several Swiss firms. Homburger, which had two female partners last year (6.5 per cent of its partnership) has set a target of 15 per cent by 2019. It has a number of candidates in the pipeline to be made up. Lenz & Staehelin (three female partners, or 6.8 per cent of the partnership) also recognises it needs to improve its diversity statistics.
Other firms to be focusing on diversity include Loyens & Loeff, which has set a 30 per cent female partnership target for 2024 – it is currently on 12.6 per cent – and Cuatrecasas, which has set up a female talent team in a bid to improve its statistics from 13.7 per cent.
This article is an extract from The Lawyer’s European 100 2017 report. To find out more information or purchase a copy, please contact Ben Oakshott on firstname.lastname@example.org. To participate in the upcoming European 100 2018 report, please contact Jesse Koppi on email@example.com