BLP latest law firm to set female partnership target

Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) has become the latest major law firm in the UK to establish a formal target for female representation at partner level.

It follows Baker & McKenzie, Herbert Smith Freehills and Linklaters in committing to a 30 per cent target - BLP wants to reach this level by the end of 2018. In total, ten law firms have now set goals and it gives an indication of how seriously the issue of gender diversity is being taken.

The proposals was ratified by the board last week and its diversity and inclusivity group has been tasked with making sure they come to fruition.

Getting gender diversity right
Employment head Lisa Mayhew leads this group and she is confident that BLP is adopting the right strategy.

"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," she stated. "This is important to our clients and it is important to us."

Speaking to the Lawyer, Ms Mayhew added there is plenty of research that shows businesses "perform better if you have a critical mass of women in the senior ranks". She added the main reason why the firm didn't release a target earlier was that it wanted to have high level and in-depth conversations about the issue and decide the best way forward.

As well as working on the talent pipeline and creating the situation whereby females find partnerships attractive, the law firm is also going to use headhunters to focus on females hires in certain sectors. This is because it recognises that organic growth will not see the target hit on its own.

Facilitating senior promotions
The main issue at the moment is making sure enough women are given senior promotions. Analysis by the Law Gazette shows that 24 went of the last 80 partner promotions in the five leading law firms went to females. This is despite the fact that many of the leading law firms currently have an associate ratio that is more than 50 per cent female.

There is a need for different behaviours if organisations are going to hit these targets and this is why Ms Mayhew is hoping to make the most of mentoring and flexible working to encourage more senior promotions for women.

In a further effort to help empower female lawyers, five City associates have set up Women In Law London. The network is aimed at females of all pre-partnership levels in London and has been described as "a relaxed, vibrant and inspiring forum for women".

The five lawyers hope the network can help improve retention levels of female talent in the profession, in part by making sure everyone becomes engaged about the issues facing female leaders in law. It is the latest sign of progress being made over gender diversity.