Fine, let’s split this down the middle – 70% for me and 30% for you. That OK?

I had a slight dig at Laura Carstensen the other day in the context of the EHRC report on gender pay – here – in which I asked a few questions about the issue in the context of the legal industry. You may be surprised to hear that I didn’t hear anything further from EHRC, Laura or even from the ’36 guy’, so I decided to dig around a bit myself.

To be fair to lawyers, most of them seem to be pretty good at publishing their diversity statistics and these have been collated by Chambers as at 2013 – here – which saves me a job.

The summary is that the averages are as follows: 56.5% of associates (non-partners) and 23.3% of partners are female in the industry as a whole and for the larger, more corporate, firms the averages are 49.1% and 19.1% respectively

So pretty even at a non-partner level but plenty work to be done at the partner level. No huge surprise as that is a consistent message across industries, although I was quite pleased to see my alma mater,  Cameron McKenna, doing alright for a corporate firm with 25% of female partners.

So I wondered how the industry was tackling this significant issue and I came across a very glossy document from Clifford Chance (one of the largest global firms) with loads of ‘diverse’ pictures and brilliant sound bites throughout – here – and it set out a very clear target.

Good on them – haven’t seen many other such declarations from other law firms (on flicking through a few other websites undertaking detailed research).

Granted that they’re starting from a low base of only 16% of female partners but their target is…….drum-roll please…..30%.


This isn’t their target for next year or five years’ time – it is just their overall target.That’s really shooting for the moon.

To put it in context, the Chambers analysis above shows that, currently, 51% of non-partner solicitors at Clifford Chance are women – 51%.

So the business that prides itself on being “dedicated to improving gender balance” would be thrilled if a huge proportion of their current female staff fall away as their career progresses to allow the men to take the more important, senior jobs. Incidentally, they set the target in 2009 apparently – they don’t seem to be hurtling towards the target!

I’ve worked in the corporate deal environment for much of my career and I can’t help wondering how Clifford Chance’s clients would feel if their lawyers took the same approach into the negotiating room.

Imagine the scene where a dynamic, young, fast-growing company with a female CEO wants to merge with a long-standing traditional company of a similar size.

Big Swinging Dick Corporate Lawyer: “Ok, now to the difficult part of the negotiation – how much of the combined corporate entity do you want us to ask for”

Client: “Well, we’re a similar size but arguably we’ve got better, smarter people with stronger growth prospects, so suggest we should get the lion’s share – can we try for 75% and then expect to get negotiated down from there?

BSDCL: “Woah there young lady, I think that really is asking for too much – you don’t want to lose credibility immediately.”

C: “Hmmm, that’s fair I guess but still think we deserve the majority – how about 60%?”

BSDCL: (Booming laugh) “Hahaha – you really don’t understand how things work in the City do you. Look, I play golf with their CEO most Wednesday afternoons and he just won’t go for that.”

C: “Well…..I guess it’s helpful that you have such intelligence on the other side – do you think they will do a 50/50 deal?”

BSDCL: “Look, weighing it all up, and one has to remember that you are a fairly young business, I suggest you go in with a request for 30% and see where we go from there.”

C: “30%! 30%! You must be fucking kidding me; I haven’t worked my butt off for the last decade to give it all away to some old farts who wouldn’t know how to organise a piss-up in a brewery.”

BSDCL:“Calm down, dear, calm down.”

C: “Er – do you have the number for Slaughter & May?”

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