22 March 2017 at 08:41 BST

Top 10 firms lag mid-tier rivals on partner level gender diversity

Mid-tier law firms continue to outperform Top 10 rivals on gender diversity at partnership level - and the gap is widening.

Cathy Yeulet

Less than a fifth (19 per cent) of partners at Top 10 law firms are women compared with an average 25 per cent of female partners at the rest of the Top 100 law firms, according to executive search and market research firm Edward Drummond. The research company said that the UK’s biggest law firms had been slower at addressing gender balance issues at partner level than mid-tier rivals –– due to their size. The gap between the two groups has widened slightly – with figures for last year showing 19 per cent and 24 per cent female representation at partner level, respectively.

Slow to act

It has been argued that mid-tier firms are more successful than their larger rivals at identifying and implementing new and innovative ways of attracting female talent at senior levels. This is likely to be due to the numerous layers of management required to run organisations the size of Top 10 law firms, making it harder for them to compete with the relative speed and agility of smaller firms, said the report.

Less nimble

Jaidee Spear of Edward Drummond commented on the findings: ‘It’s not that larger firms don’t want to invest in gender diversity at partnership level – in fact it is extremely high on their agenda. 'The fact is that implementing policies of any kind at these large scale organisations can take longer than it would for smaller rivals. The sheer size of their operations means that some of the largest law firms can be less nimble.'


The report said that new strategies aimed at helping working parents or carers to strike a good work-life balance were integral to attract female lawyers to partnership – such as flexible working and agile working, working from home or remote working one or two days per week.


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