2018: Firms have quotas for female partners

Prediction: Women will still represent less than 20 per cent of partners in the UK Top 20 law firms, and there will be no female global managing partners or CEOs.

 In the past five years there has been no meaningful change in the representation of women at partner level in the UK legal market. In 2006 16 per cent of partners were women. This year, 17.6 per cent are. At equity level the percentage has not changed at all. Just 13 per cent of equity partners at UK Top 20 firms are women.

 So despite all the talk of diversity initiatives – which will definitely continue, as firms now have to demonstrate their commitment in this area – little is actually happening.

No Top 20 UK firm will be led by a woman. Women are beginning to break in slightly further down the scale (Monica Burch at Addleshaw Goddard, Sharon White at Stephenson Harwood, Margaret Robertson at Withers), but they will fail to punch through the glass ceiling in the largest firms. It will take more than five years for there to be a female Nigel Knowles, David Morley or Peter Martyr.

Women will be slightly better represented on law firm management boards and in practice area or office leadership roles than now, and at associate level the male/female balance will have tipped even further in favour of the women.

Part-time and flexible working will be the norm, with advances in technology making it far easier to juggle family and a career. However, the culture of the law, dictating that the hours need to be put in to make a mark, will not change significantly. Whether through choice or discrimination, the top end of firms will still be dominated by men.

 We would love this prediction to prove wrong, but sadly it seems one of the most likely to come true.

Prediction: At least one Top 20 firm will introduce quotas to get women into management positions

Many firms have signed up to the 30% Club which aims to get more women onto boards, but cajoling will not be enough. A large firm will introduce a quota and attract criticism on meritocratic grounds until everyone realises that all those women who were, after all, good enough to make partner might also be quite good managers.


David Morley, Allen & Overy


Tony Angel