S&M enters part-time partner debate

Slaughter and May has set up a new high-level partner group to look at working practices that might block diversity and gender equality within the firm

One of the things it will discuss is whether partners should be allowed to work part time.

Driving the group are senior partner Tim Clark and high-profile female partners Laura Carstensen and Frances Murphy. The same partners were involved with a submission to Denise Kingsmill’s ‘Report into Women’s Employment’, which looked at how to break the glass ceiling.

As part of Slaughters’ submission to Kingsmill, the firm committed to a policy review of women’s pay and employment. Management has since interviewed a range of external consultants to advise on the issue. Clark will now decide which consultant to use, or alternatively whether to keep the whole thing in-house.

Part-time partnership is a key issue for all law firms, but there would be serious internal opposition to such a move at Slaughters. Given that the firm is so transaction-driven, it would be particularly difficult to implement.

Dubbed the ‘Lifestyle Committee’ by partners, it also looks at ways to improve their work-life balance. Although the group has no defined remit, the intention is that it will present ideas to management. Murphy told The Lawyer the broader firm could be won over on many issues. “We have buy-in to meritocracy – that’s something we always have had.”

Corporate partner David Wittman and litigation partner Richard Swallow are also part of the broader group, while others contribute ad hoc. The HR department and support staff have so far had a much more limited role. Carstensen said: “It’s very much a partner-led thing.”