Legal Business Blogs

MPs accuse legal profession of making a ‘nonsense’ of gender pay gap reporting

The UK’s top law firms, particularly Allen & Overy (A&O) and Clifford Chance (CC), have been condemned by MPs for their gender pay gap efforts.

A&O was specifically criticised for its failure to disclose its partnership pay figures when prompted to earlier this year, while fellow Magic Circle firm, CC, was for its ‘painfully slow’ progress on female representation.

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee’s report, published today (2 August), singled out A&O’s inability to publish partner gender pay gap data: ‘The exclusion of the highest paid people in organisations makes a nonsense of efforts to understand the scale of, and reasons behind, the gender pay gap.’

A&O, and the rest of the profession, were not obliged to include partner pay statistics in the last round of reporting, but the committee recommended such data should be included in next year’s reports.

For their part, A&O has pledged to publish its gender pay gap statistics for 2017/18, including the partnership, by September.

Regarding CC, the committee criticised the firm’s progress on its target of reaching a 30% female partnership, with the percentage having only increased from 16.5% to 21% since 2009.

‘It is clear for legal firms, including those claiming that gender diversity had been a strategic priority for many years, it will take many years at the present rate of progress before they begin to look anything like gender-balanced at the senior, rather than more junior levels,’ the report said.

Law Society vice president Simon Davis (pictured) commented: ‘Because partner pay is structured differently from salaries, a new reporting method will be required to ensure data is meaningful and helpful for addressing inequalities in pay. We will work with government and other professional and business services to develop an approach that is comparable across firms and industries.’

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer came out on top among its Magic Circle peers earlier this year, when it unveiled it pays male staff on average 13.9% more than female fee-earners.

The gap at Linklaters was 23.2%, while it was 19.8% at A&O and 14% at Slaughter and May. CC opted to publish the total earnings of its partnership, including bonus share or profit share entitlements, which showed a 27% gap in partner earnings in favour of men.