When Clifford Chance decided to publish its partner gender pay gap figures this week, it cemented the trend of whole-firm reporting and made it mainstream.

Natasha Bernal

Sure, five firms may have preceded the magic circle behemoth in doing so, but the party didn’t really start until Clifford Chance walked in.

Since CC’s move, Travers Smith has decided to re-state its figures to include partnership numbers. Simmons & Simmons released its partnership figures alongside the general numbers yesterday. And firms that were considering whether to release their figures today or on the Wednesday deadline are now rethinking whether to go the extra mile. They should.

Firstly, if the likes of sprawling global firms like DLA Piper or Reed Smith can do it, what’s the excuse for the 40-odd firms that haven’t?

And how the partnership pay gap is calculated varies from firm to firm. Clifford Chance has opted for what some might see as a puritanical approach, taking remuneration from across an entire year as a sample to calculate the median and mean differences within its upper echelon.

Norton Rose Fulbright and Pinsent Masons followed the rigorous guidelines that applied to the rest of the gender pay reporting process – selecting a month and analysing the difference between men and women. Both reported bonus figures, which Clifford Chancers don’t get.

Eyebrows were raised when Reed Smith and Dentons did not report their overall gender pay gap, instead separating partnership figures from the general population.

As one market insider put it, “you’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t”.

Regardless of the firm, seeing more figures doesn’t make the overall picture look better. Like a bad scab, everyone wants it off but no one really wants to see what’s underneath. But here’s the thing – the bad stuff is still there.

If you need more persuasion, ask your clients. Almost all of them have faced pay gap data from the boardroom to the post room – and feel you should do the same. Some of the firms that have reported partner data have received feedback from clients, and despite the figures, it’s positive. It shows strength of character and solidarity.

The argument is simple; if you don’t include partner data, you’re manipulating the gender pay gap. Law firms may be avoiding awkward (but hugely necessary) conversations with their own people by hiding behind the employee data alone.

But they are nullifying a process that is meant to be an open snapshot of the state of the market and missing a chance to show the market and firm that they are serious about doing something about it.

What do we want? Partner data. When do we want it? As soon as possible, please.