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The glass ceiling in large law firms: only 20% of the partners are women


The proportion improves slightly compared to last year, which was 19%, but the number of large firms led by women falls to three

The glass can be seen half full: the situation is somewhat better than last year.

Or half empty: the improvement is only 1% and, at this rate, there are still many years to reach a situation even close to parity at the top of the large law firms.

According to the figures collected by


, women barely represent 20% of the partners of the largest law firms in the country.

A figure that, being bad, is one point more than in 2019, when it stood at 19%.

The underrepresentation in


contrasts with the parity that exists in lawyer staff, where they are 49%, or with the greater female presence in the global firm (that is, also counting non-lawyer professionals): 56%.

The conclusion is clear: the glass ceiling in the legal profession exists and is situated in access to membership.

The study, prepared with the figures of 36 of the main business law firms in Spain, does not show great differences in the heads of national and international firms, although in the latter the proportion of members is somewhat better than in the former: 21% compared to 19%.

The only firm that has refused to provide the data is Clifford Chance, whose information has been extracted from its website (its percentage of members, with a single woman compared to 22 men, is 4%).

And, if the situation is not good in relation to the composition of the companies, it is worse if you attend to who leads the offices.

Only 3 firms of the 36 consulted have a woman in charge.

They are EY Abogados, where Rocío Reyero shares the position of managing partner with Ramón Palacín;

Broseta, whose managing partner is Rosa Vidal, and Bird & Bird, a firm co-directed by Coral Yáñez and Isidro del Moral, both with the position of


in Madrid.


  • The glass ceiling in 2019: only 19% of members

  • This is how women are discriminated against in law firms, according to lawyers

  • The wage gap in Garrigues, Cuatrecasas and Uría

In this sense, the last two years have not been positive for female leadership and visibility in the legal sector, given that the number of law firms headed by women has decreased.

Last February, Pilar Menor was replaced as managing partner of DLA Piper by Jesús Zapata.

In 2019, María José Menéndez gave way to Jorge Vázquez at the helm of Ashurst and, in the Barcelona office of Baker McKenzie, Javier Menor took the reins to the detriment of Montserrat Llopart.

Requirement of large companies

The data for this year follows the line of slow improvement that has been reaping in recent years.

In 2014, the share of female members was 14%, and in 2017, 16%.

At this point, the debate in which many offices are installed is whether it is enough to let the passage of time itself balance the presence of men and women in their domes (taking into account that at the base of the pyramid there is parity or, even greater female presence), or if, on the contrary, measures should be adopted to accelerate this process.

A position that, among the large firms, has already been publicly defended by Jorge Badía, CEO of Cuatrecasas.

The issue is thorny because in large law firms, where competition is very high, there are many (and many) who question quotas or affirmative action measures because they believe they are an attack on meritocracy.

However, those who tip the balance in favor of the adoption of decisive actions to promote women may be the clients themselves.

During the last Legal Management Forum, a legal event organized by Wolters Kluwer and Inkietos, Óscar García Maceiras, global director of the Banco Santander legal area, recalled that many legal advisors, like his, are incorporating equality requirements to contract with law firms.

"In our firm panels we are introducing KPIs related to diversity. Firms must participate with the same sensitivity that companies are having in this matter. As long-term partners, we want our lawyers to share the values ​​that make up our DNA", García Maceiras explained.

In the United States, many of the large companies (Facebook, Microsoft, Macy's, MetLife or HP, among others) have made public these diversity requirements to contract with a law firm.

In Spain, more and more directors of internal legal firms are sensitized to this practice, but the truth is that it still cannot be considered generalized.

A global problem

It is not a consolation, but the lack of equality in the


of large law firms is not an exclusively national problem.

In the UK, the share of female members is around 25%;

in Germany, 10%, and in the United States, 20%.

Precisely, in the international arena there has been one of the great novelties in terms of equality in the sector.

In September, Freshfiels Bruckhaus announced the election of Georgia Dawson as its new global managing partner, making the firm the first of the powerful


magic circle

to award this responsibility to a woman.

Although it is not particularly reflected in the data in Spain, Anglo-Saxon law firms have traditionally been more active in approving measures and policies to promote diversity.

A push to which national law firms are joining.

The actions taken by law firms are of four types.

In the first place, measures to promote conciliation, one of the main reasons that lawyers adduce as a brake on their careers.

Second, establish percentages of women in hiring or promotions.

Third, plans and training to eradicate biases.

And finally, leadership, coaching and empowerment programs for women lawyers.

Thus, for example, the Garrigues Optimum Plan allows the firm's professionals to enjoy a reduction in working hours for two years after the end of their maternity or paternity leave, without affecting their professional development or involving a reduction in their remuneration .

In the case of Cuatrecasas, associates with children can reduce their billable hours target by 5% and dedicate that time to their professional development, especially in the commercial aspect.

From Uría Menéndez, for their part, they highlight that the appointment of main associates, the status prior to partner, have been equal in recent years.

Circumstance, they explain, that has helped the firm to increase the number of members, both in relative and absolute terms (in 2017 they were 10% and now they are 14%).

Finally, from Baker McKenzie they highlight the global goal of diversity that the firm has set for 2025: 40% women, 40% men and 20% flexible (men, women or non-binary people), which applies both to the partners as to the rest of the categories.

Source: elparis

All news articles on 2020-12-02

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