Legal Business

Women in law – A belated bandwagon, but still welcome

Rarely, even in the conservative game of law, has so necessary a measure been so long avoided until the status quo became laughably, farcically, untenable. The move is for major law firms to start articulating public benchmarks for their proportion of female partners – corporate speak for the series of concrete targets announced this year to stem the huge outflow of talented women from the profession.

For years the profession had claimed that meritocracy and changing attitudes would feed through into higher than the circa-20% female partnerships currently at most firms; over the last five years it has become apparent how baseless that conventional wisdom was as gender diversity has barely budged. Indeed, there is some evidence that the two primary tools by which law firms increasingly manage their partnerships – lateral hiring and partner exits – are both favouring male lawyers over women and offsetting any number of women’s networks and mentoring schemes.