Linklaters expands female leadership scheme across global offices

Linklaters has rolled out its female leadership initiative across its global offices in a bid to maintain the increase in the number of women making partner at the firm.

Just days after announcing its biggest female promotions round in four years, the firm will hold its first twice-annual women’s leadership conference (19 September 2012). The project sees female associates nominated by partners receive one-on-one coaching and mentoring from partners across the firm in a bid to boost their leadership chances.

The June conference will be one of two this year, for the first time, with the scheme now open to 29 recruits instead of 25 across all its offices.

That follows its January 2014 conference in Germany with the new cohort. The firm introduced the project in 2012 with Cranfield School of Management and piloted the scheme in London and continental Europe. Newly recruited head of diversity Daniel Danso said: ”In terms of promoting women, we’re conscious of addressing it in a way that makes sense for us and we want to dispel myths internally of how people get on and get on the right deals.”

It is one of a growing number of initiatives launched to tackle a lack of women in powerful positions in the legal market. Recently Pinsent Masons and Herbert Smith Freehills both stated their intention to reach a 30 per cent female partnership within the next five years (13 March 2014).

Linklaters is a founding member of the 30% Club, aimed at boosting the number of women on boards, in Asia and London. The firm is on the monthly steering committee for the group but decided not to introduce quotas for female partners, as mulled by Freshfields in 2012 (25 May 2012).

Instead the magic circle firm went down a different route, with partners each year asked to nominate women to be put forward for its leadership scheme. Each associate put forward is matched to a ‘sponsor partner’ from an office elsewhere in the world.

Danso, who joined the firm from charity Stonewall eight months ago, said: “None of the sponsors are in the same countries. We have a lot of male sponsors too – it’s important for us to start getting this out of the space of this is a womens’ issue. It’s really important that we start engaging men and start giving those men who would normally be supportive the platform to do so.”

After being selected women on the scheme attend two and a half days of intensive coaching and then a reunion of past cohorts and sponsor partners.

Danso said: “You see some of the things that the alumni have gone back to do and it’s everything from women pulling together all of the associates and female managing associates and clients for breakfasts and sessions to doing lectures to partners on things like psychology of targets.”

The firm’s international board and executive committee are understood to be considering introducing targets or quotas in line with their City rivals but Danso said there were no immediate plans to do so.

Danso said: “Right now we are always having conversations with our board and our executive committee about quotas and targets because other firms are jumping out publicly.

“But we don’t’ want to do that without having the infastructure to back it up and having the understanding of the real difference between quotas and targets and what’s behind them.”

The scheme appears to have been making an impact on the firm’s partnership balance. This year three of the leadership programme’s alumni were made up as new partners in its 21-strong promotions round (7 April 2014).

For the first time in four years, almost half of the firm’s new partners were women. The total of nine women, 43 per cent of the promotions round, was up substantially on the year before, when only three out of the 24 new partners were women (29 April 2014). That also beat the two previous years when six and five partners were made up (23 April 2012).

For the first time the firm also made up more women than men in its London office with seven to four making partner.

Danso said the firm wanted to trace a year of the new intake before considering boosting the number of placements again. He said: “We want to follow individuals and make sure this is actually having an impact.”