Across both the law firm and in-house legal markets there is widely recognised to be an unconscious bias prevalent: senior management recruit and advance people in their own image. This can be detrimental to diversity within the profession as a whole and affects women, individuals from ethnic minorities and different social classes amongst others. In this article, Lucinda Youtan, Senior Manager within SSQ’s in-house team in London, explores gender diversity within the UK commercial legal profession.
Women in law firms
FACT: approximately 60% of City law firms’ new trainees are female
Despite a gender diverse talent pipeline research consistently demonstrates that men are far more likely to obtain the most senior legal roles both in-house and in City law firms.
Approximately 60% of City firms’ new trainees are female, as has been the case for many years. However, there is only one female Managing Partner in the Magic and Silver Circle law firms and amongst the FTSE 100 there are only 21 female General Counsel. Why are there not more woman at the top of these prestigious commercial law firms and in the UK’s biggest listed companies legal teams?
FACT: Women account for fewer than one in five of full equity partners at the City’s top 10 law firms
Over the last thirteen years we have assisted thousands of lawyers in securing new roles and we have identified several factors which we believe contribute to the lack of gender diversity at the top of the profession.
Within the Magic and Silver Circle law firms, over 70% of Managing Partners hail from a transactional law background. Transactional partners have historically driven the revenue within these UK firms and have been “rainmakers” for the wider firm, including non-transactional departments, raising their internal profile and building the business case for the Managing Partner role in the process.
We regularly work on NQ transactional roles and from our experience there are more male trainees qualifying into transactional positions in City law firms than female trainees. Whilst some junior female lawyers are influenced by the compatibility of a particular practice area with a family life, the culture of transactional teams within law firms is sometimes perceived as aggressive and/or male dominated.