Merited? Maybe. Heartening? No

It’s just a week into the partner promotion season and already some trends are emerging; the firms we feature are a fascinating cross-section of the market. By the way, our print coverage complements our much-viewed rolling blog on the topic – see for analysis of individual firms.

You might have thought firms would be shying away from promoting into corporate. But no – they are undoubtedly taking a long-term view. The dominance of corporate has usually militated against female promotions, while litigation tends to do rather better; women tend to drop out of hardcore transactional departments faster than their male counterparts. Corporate-heavy Macfarlanes promoted no women this year, for example. I’m sure it’s all strictly meritocratic, but not particularly heartening.

Four firms so far have got female corporate candidates through: Wragges (Sharon Ayres), Olswang (Amy Collins and Natasha Kaye), Burges Salmon (Camilla Usher-Clark) and Herbert Smith (Gillian Fairfield in London and Karen Ip and Carolyn Sng in Asia). By contrast, Freshfields hasn’t made a female partner promotion in London corporate since 2003.

Bizarrely, Freshfields boss Ted Burke says that the firm a) doesn’t focus on the gender or the backgrounds of candidates, but b) is committed to greater diversity in the firm and the profession. The women may have been good enough to hire in the first place, but they’re still dropping out. It’s noticeable that Freshfields has gone very quiet on that female mentoring scheme it announced two years ago. Some work still to be done there, perhaps?Oh, and a final plea: please can law firm leaders stop saying “lady partners”? We can do without that sort of faux gallantry.

• On a different note, some readers may already have noticed that we’ve trimmed our size this week to a more manageable, briefcase-sized format. I would give you all sorts of environmental reasons (we’re already printed on recycled paper), but for us it works both economically and aesthetically. We’re a little bit smaller, but we’re still beautifully formed.