Microsoft names CMS best for diversity among UK partner firms

London-based firm leads eight-strong group that includes Reed Smith, Mischon de Reya and Osborne Clarke

Paolo Bona

Microsoft has named CMS as the top performer in its annual diversity programme for its UK partner firms.

The UK Law Firm Diversity Programme (LFDP) was launched last year and builds on a similar programme the tech giant set up for its US partner firms back in 2008. It aims to support Microsoft’s UK partner firms to diversify their workforces and in particular advance the representation of lawyers of colour among their leadership. 

From Microsoft’s eight UK partner firms, CMS emerged ahead of Reed Smith, Mishcon de Reya, Eversheds Sutherland, Wiggin, Covington & Burling, Osborne Clarke and PWF in terms of progress toward greater diversity and inclusion in its workforce in 2021. 

The results showed that in 2021 the number of hours diverse employees from CMS spent on Microsoft matters increased 12% to reach 63.1%, while overall diversity of CMS’s management committee rose by 7.7% to meet the 50% target. 

Diversity of the firm’s partnership went up by 3% to 41.7%, with the number of women partners and minority partners increasing by 2.4% and 1.4% respectively, which Microsoft described as ‘promising progress’. 

Based on the success of the programme in the UK, Microsoft said it will begin offering a bonus of up to 3% on the annual fees of partner firms that achieve their diversity targets in 2022, which is already in place for the US version of the programme. 

Clive Gringras, Microsoft’s client relationship partner and head of TMT at CMS, said the firm was “delighted to be the top performer in diversity against such great competitors”. 

“Massive credit goes to the superb and diverse lawyers at CMS who devote themselves to providing high quality advice – especially during this most challenging of times,” he said, adding that the programme’s data-driven approach “challenges us to be more deliberate in choosing the most diverse team possible”. 

The firm said that it intends to create a number of initiatives specifically aimed at promoting the representation of ethnic minority talent across its international network, including a target of attracting 35% of applications from ethnically diverse candidates by 2023 and the launch of a two-year pilot programme for ethnically diverse senior associates. 

In April, CMS unveiled its largest-ever global promotional round, elevating 52 lawyers to partner, with women accounting for 43% of its promotions in the UK and 37% of new partners globally, a slight dip from the previous year’s figure of 41%, and 10% below the 2019 record, which saw 47% of the spots go to women. 

In other D&I news, the UK's five Magic Circle law firms joined forces with three other leading practices in November to launch Legal CORE, an initiative to tackle the underrepresentation of black, Asian and minority ethnic groups in the UK legal profession. 

And in October, Linklaters entered a strategic partnership with SoftBank’s Vision Fund Emerge 2021 programme, intended to promote diversity in tech by supporting underrepresented startup founders.


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