Female lawyers fall behind in top firms’ 2004 partnership promotions

Law firms’ failure to address the gender divide at partnership level has been confirmed by research by The Lawyer, which reveals that fewer female lawyers have been elevated in this year’s round of promotions compared with the previous year.

Of the nine leading law firms that have announced new partners for 2004, just 24 out of a total of 158 new partners, or 15.1 per cent, were women. In the previous year, 35 out of 165 new partners, or 21.1 per cent, were women.

Allen & Overy in particular has showed a severe decline in new female partners. In 2003, 27.5 per cent of the new 29 partners were wo-men. This year, the figure has fallen to 4.7 per cent, or just one of the 21 new partners.

The number of new female partners has also fallen dramatically at Lovells, from five of a total of 17 in 2003 to just one from 15 this time round. This is a surprise given that research by The Lawyer in 2003 showed the firm boasted an impressive number of female partners – 20 per cent of the equity partnership and 43 per cent of the firm’s salaried partners were female.

For the second year running, Slaughter and May failed to make up any new female partners. Capital markets partner and practice partner David Frank said: “It doesn’t mean there aren’t more women coming through. We make up people on merit.” He added: “I don’t think we do too badly in the women stakes.”

Of Slaughters’ 129 partners, 20, or 15.5 per cent, are women.
In contrast, Linklaters stood out after revealing a large increase in female partners, rising from 15.7 per cent of 19 new partners in 2003 to 22.5 per cent of 31 this year.

Overall, the majority of law firms have made up less partners in 2004 compared with the year before, with Clifford Chance’s quota declining to 18, from 31 in 2003.

Pointedly, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, where new partners dropped to 16 from last year’s 23, has failed to make up any lawyers in Asia. The firm is currently conducting a reorganisation of the region, where there are expected to be redundancies (see front page).

DLA appointed more new partners this year, 18 compared with 14 in 2003, but this year’s list did not include any in London. But this last financial year, DLA has been on a hiring spree, taking on at least five partners for the London office.

The firm also displayed the fruits of its breakneck European expansion, through its recent merger with Netherlands firm SchutGrosheide, by promoting five European lawyers, including two in Amsterdam.

New female partners as percentage of total appointments
Firm 2004 (%) 2003 (%)
Allen & Overy 4.7 27.5
Clifford Chance 22.2 25.8
DLA 11.1 21.4
Eversheds 22.7 27
Freshfields 18.7 13
Herbert Smith 7.6 0
Linklaters 22.5 15.7
Lovells 6.6 29.4
Slaughter and May 0 0
Source: The Lawyer