Just 22 percent of equity partners at law firms are women compared to 61 percent of trainee solicitors who are women, suggesting that law firms need to be doing far more to improve retention rates of female lawyers, says new research published today by Thomson Reuters and Acritas.
Thomson Reuters’ ‘Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law’ research sheds light on the steps law firms are taking to improve gender diversity. However, the research shows that law firms are making significant progress in addressing the disparity in the gender make-up at senior and junior levels by introducing a raft of successful initiatives. For example: 69 percent of law firms have a board level representative where a significant part of their role is focused on diversity; 60 percent of law firms analyse their gender diversity at a practice-by-practice level; and, 60 percent of law firms have voluntarily added partners into their gender pay gap reporting to improve transparency. The Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law research study, conducted in partnership with Acritas, is based on responses from 48 leading UK and European law firms. The study analyses levels of gender diversity across positions from Trainee to Executive Board and the steps law firms are taking to improve retention of women into senior roles. Lucinda Case, lead - legal professionals, Europe, at Thomson Reuters says “There are signs of cracks in the glass ceiling at UK law firms.” She explained, “There is still a long way to go, but law firms now are becoming increasingly engaged in fixing this problem.” Ms Case added, “Many law firms have accepted that the significant imbalance at the top of their structures is not helping their business. They are responding to that by implementing changes to their strategies that should, given time, be a force for good.”
The study also shows: 46 percent of law firms have initiatives for a representative gender balance in all pitches to potential clients; 30 percent of law firms have initiatives that ensure a representative gender balance on all client teams; 47 percent have initiatives to offer sponsorships to female candidates for Partnership; and, 42 percent have processes in place to ensure that slates of candidates up for promotion are gender balanced. The report suggest the most successful steps law firms are taking to improve gender diversity revolve around three key themes. These are: making gender diversity a strategic goal; ensuring female lawyers get sufficient client exposure and access to a wide range of work, and, reconsidering ‘women-only’ initiatives and checking that mentors are giving the right advice. The research showed that ‘Women only networks’, for example, can be damaging for gender balance, but opening those networks up to include men can result in them having a positive effect.