Female career progress on Clifford Chance agenda

Clifford Chance’s first corporate responsibility (CR) report, published today (8 September), ­highlights that female career progression varies dramatically across ­jurisdictions. While as many as 25.5 per cent of Asian partners are female, that ­figure is only 6.3 per cent in Central and Eastern Europe.

Female career progress on <a class=Clifford Chance agenda” />Clifford Chance’s first corporate responsibility (CR) report, published today ;(8 ;September), ­highlights that female career progression varies dramatically ;across ­jurisdictions. While as many as 25.5 per cent of Asian partners are female, that ­figure is only 6.3 per cent in Central and Eastern Europe.

Career opportunities for women in London and Dubai, which are counted as one entry, are close to Clifford Chance’s global average, where 16.8 per cent of partners across the offices are female. The ­average is 15.4 per cent. This is slightly below the UK’s top 10 average of 19.4 per cent (see story).

By contrast, almost three-quarters of traditionally less-well-paid business ­services staff are female. That figure is 84.4 per cent among Central and Eastern European business services staff.

Clifford Chance global managing partner David Childs says: “Getting a better balance is a very big issue, but we don’t have ­simple answers to it.”

Childs adds that the firm would set clearer targets internally for male-to-female ratios, as well as rolling out women’s networks in jurisdictions other than London and the US.

The report follows the January launch of an externally assured corporate social responsibility (CSR) report from magic circle rival Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

Clifford Chance states that the purpose of the research is “to develop a CR platform that is recognised as unequalled in the legal profession.”

“We set up a corporate responsibility group earlier this year,” says Childs. “Even though it is still early days, we felt we should do a report to tell the world what we are doing. So, the first thing we did was to take stock of the work we’ve been doing in various offices.”
The resulting document is similar to that published by Freshfields, with both firms covering the main issue expected in the CSR field.

In ;terms ;of ;carbon ­footprints, Clifford Chance recorded a figure of 5.02 tonnes of CO2 per employee in 2007, while at Freshfields the figure was 3.57 tonnes. Both firms’ readings were audited externally, although they used different criteria.

Freshfields’ reporting complied with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Accounting and Reporting Standard and includes air travel, which makes up 33 per cent of Freshfields’ global footprint, as well as electricity use
in premises. Freshfields’ ­reporting also gives a detailed breakdown of where exactly CO2 emissions occur by ­jurisdiction and activity.

Clifford Chance, which is less experienced at CSR reporting than its rival, may have this level of information available, but it did not publish it this time. The firm also does not specify which external reporting standard has been used, although it stresses that its figure excludes business air travel and offsite IT data centres.

It is therefore difficult to compare the two firms’ carbon footprint figures and it would be unfair to conclude that Clifford Chance is a bigger polluter than Freshfields, even without air travel.

Childs highlights one of the problems with carbon footprinting as it currently stands. “One of the issues in the environmental field is a lack of common definition. Often definitions have different meanings, depending on who uses them,” he says.

From this perspective, direct comparisons of ­carbon footprints between firms are almost worthless. In other areas, such as pro bono, comparisons do work.

While the time periods vary slightly, the firm’s reports show that Clifford Chance completed £18.61m worth of pro bono work in 2007-08, while Freshfields managed £3.11m during 2006-07.

In terms of the level of detail provided about the numbers of female staff and ethnic minorities, Clifford Chance’s statistical breakdowns win over Freshfields’ on most counts. Clifford Chance sets out global breakdowns for gender. In London and the US it also provides breakdowns for ethnic minority staff. At Freshfields there are only detailed figures for London.

However, Clifford Chance does not provide statistics on sexual orientation or ­disability, unlike Freshfields.

When comparing the London figures, gender split at partner level is almost identical between the two firms. Clifford Chance appears to be slightly more ethnically diverse at partner level, with 5.3 per cent of London partners describing themselves as an ethnic minority, compared with
3 per cent at Freshfields.

The main issue with ­Clifford Chance’s CR report is that, as it is the firm’s
first, there is no point of ­comparison other than with reports from firms such as Freshfields.

Communication ;of ­environmental aims and pro bono initiatives can be taken as read at almost all top firms, but CR is far more telling when it shows changes at firms.

Clifford Chance’s first CR report is a necessary step for the firm in establishing a benchmark for its CR ­ambitions. Next year’s ­publication will make far more interesting reading.


Partners in… Women (% of total)
Americas 11.1%
Central and Eastern Europe 6.3%
Asia 25.5%
London and Dubai 16.8%
Western Europe 14.7%
All regions 15.4%

Lawyers in… Women (% of total)
Americas 50.3%
Central and Eastern Europe 45.0%
Asia 52.2%
London and Dubai 50.5%
Western Europe 48.5%
All regions 48.5%

Business services staff in… Women (% of total)
Americas 69.4%
Central and Eastern Europe 84.4%
Asia 81.7%
London and Dubai 68.9%
Western Europe 79.1%
All regions 74.9%

Source: The Lawyer

See our Ladies in waiting feature on women making the equity for more on this topic.