Linklaters becomes first magic circle firm to set gender diversity targets

Linkaters has become the first magic circle firm to adopt gender diversity targets and is aiming for 30 per cent female membership on its executive committee and international board by 2018.

Fiona Hobbs
Fiona Hobbs

The firm has also set its sights on greater gender diversification of its partner promotions. By 2018 it aims for at least 30 per cent of new partners to be female.

Linklaters is the first magic circle firm to formally adopt the initiative although Allen & Overy is understood to be mooting introducing a 20 per cent female partnership target by 2020 (16 May 2014).

The move was announced at Linklaters’ annual partner conference held in Barcelona in April.

Linklaters’ chairman and senior partner Robert Elliott said: “It re-affirms Linklaters’ commitment to female progression, setting a visible and aspirational goal for greater female representation on the firm’s main executive body, its principal governance body and the partnership at large.”

If successful the firm will double female representation on the executive from the current 15 per cent to 30 per cent.

The firm smashed the 30 per cent target for female partner promotions earlier this year. Of the total 21 promotions, nine were women – 43 per cent (7 April 2014).

“We are conscious that in previous years the proportion has not always been as healthy,” Elliot said. In 2013 just three of the 21 new partners were women (29 April 2013).

Linklaters partner Fiona Hobbs, who sits on the executive committee and co-heads the firm’s diversity initiatives alongside Spanish partner Francisco Malaga, said the scheme was key to attracting and retaining the best talent.

“We, in common with many other organisations in and outside the law, have seen for too long an even gender split at business entry level gradually become unbalanced, leaving, for a host of reasons, fewer women to reach senior positions,” she said.

“It’s something that doesn’t make good business sense. Our diversity efforts aim to redress this and respond to what our people, our clients and society in general expect.”

A number of firms have launched gender diversity targets in recent months. Most recently Ashurst unveiled plans to make 40 per cent of all partner promotions female by 2018 as well as handing a quarter of management positions to women (4 June 2014).

Pinsent Masons was the first to embrace diversity targets back in March, targeting a 30 per cent female partnership and setting an interim goal of 25 per cent within the next four years (3 March 2014).

Herbert Smith Freehills followed suit and is also aiming for a 30 per cent female partnership but its interim goal is at 25 per cent within the next three years (13 March 2014).