Legal Business Blogs

Women in law: BLP signs up to 30% female partnership target by 2018

Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) has become the tenth major law firm in the UK to establish a gender target, committing to ensure that 30% of the partnership by the end of 2018 are female.

The proposal, approved by the BLP board last week, was sponsored by the firm’s diversity and inclusivity group, which is headed by the firm’s head of employment Lisa Mayhew and real estate chief Chris de Pury.

The target set by the firm is in line with Magic Circle firm Linklaters and DWF, with both of those firms having officially signed up to a 30% target for females in partnership by 2018.

Recent research by Legal Business found that 65% of all fee earners at the firm, 492 lawyers in total, were female, yet just 22% of the partnership are women. The firm promoted no female associates to partner in 2012 and just two out of the firm’s nine promotions were female in 2013. This year, five out of the firm’s 11 promotions were female.

As part of the move, BLP will design new training programmes for partners and senior employees, including a new mentoring programme and will explore setting up female-specific development programmes.

The firm’s corporate, litigation, employment and real estate practices are also piloting flexible working initiatives, which includes a work from home scheme which covers one day a week. Every partner at the firm will also go through unconscious bias training, which the firm has hired HR consultancy Pearn Kandola to carry out.

Mayhew, who is also a member of BLP’s board, said: ‘We are passionate about ensuring BLP remains a fulfilling and progressive place to work and this target, and the measures that accompany it, will help create an environment which enables different people to be themselves. This is important to our clients and it is important to us.’

She added: ‘It is a jump from where we are. We know that and we’ve gone into it with our eyes open. The reason why we’ve not been one of the first firms to announce a target is because we had a few discussions at the board and took a long hard look at what we are now and what we wanted to be. We deliberately wanted to set ourselves an ambitious goal. We need to promote significantly more women between now and 2018 to get to a 30% representation. We need to look at the junctions, between associate to senior associate and senior associate to partner, to ensure that female lawyers go for promotions.

The firm recently appointed Claire England as its first dedicated inclusivity manager as it looks to tackle inequalities in sexual orientation and social mobility.

For more analysis of law firms attempts to improve gender diversity see The Target – will tougher measures finally boost gender diversity in the City?