One third of law firms now owned by women

More than a third of law firms in England and Wales are now majority-owned by women, the Law Society has said.

Law Society president Robert Bourns said: “The proportion of law firms majority owned by women far outstrips the national estimate of women-owned small and medium enterprises (SMEs), reflecting the changing culture in the legal sector.”

The organisation estimates that 34 per cent of the 9,403 law firms in England and Wales in 2015 have a majority of women in the partnership. This compares to an estimate that 21 per cent of SMEs nationwide are female-owned.

However, while women now make up 48 per cent of solicitors, only 28.8 per cent of partners are female.

The Lawyer’s own research shows that just nine firms in the UK top 200 are majority-female at partnership level. Of those, Hodge Jones & Allen is the most female-heavy – 71 per cent of partners are women

Research for The Lawyer’s Diversity Audit revealed that the proportion of partners at at the UK’s top 100 firms who are women has stayed static at 22 per cent over five years leading up to 2016, despite the introduction of aspirational targets by many firms.

Allen & Overy recently rethought its diversity initiatives after realising the coming two years will be bad for the firm in terms of female partnership promotions.

Meanwhile, the Bar Standards Board has estimated that it will take another 50 years before the number of female QCs matches the number of male QCs if the current rate of change remains the same.

My career story: I left school at 16 – now I’m a partner