Rankings, by definition, are never going to please everyone (nor should they). But, as the new UK editor of The Legal 500, there’s one issue in particular that I see as an area to progress: diversity.
Women make up more than half of those entering the profession, in general far less than 30% of firms’ partnerships and – for some core areas – they struggle to get recognition in the industry from peers and, yes, the legal publishing sector in general.
This needs to change – it’s important to me personally and it’s important to the profession if it is to remain relevant to a changing business community and indeed society at large.
Leading legal research businesses like The Legal 500 can and should play a role in addressing the lack of diversity within the industry. However diligent our research there is always a danger that it can become an echo chamber, given that our contacts base is built on the most established figures in the profession, a group that historically has been male dominated.
When you add in the reality that many talented female revenue generators tend to be more understated than male counterparts, there is a compelling case for writers and researchers covering the legal industry to hunt that much harder to identify the next generation of female partners.
We need to be showcasing the very best legal talent in the UK (and globally) irrespective of race, gender or anything else.
The good news is that a quick glance at The Legal 500’s next generation rankings shows greater representation of women. High-profile lateral moves – still relatively uncommon by women – such as Amy Mahon’s switch from Clifford Chance to Simpson Thacher & Bartlett will add further impetus. Strikingly, of the 21 core individuals featured in Legal Business’ February cover feature on star women partners, three have since transferred to new firms; there is a fast-emerging demand from the top firms to recruit quality female partners when they can find them.
But more still needs to be done and we need your help to do it properly. I want to see the number of women listed in our rankings as both recommended lawyers and leading individuals rise. Not at the expense of men, or as a tokenistic gesture, but on merit and to reflect a changing profession.
As firms and practice heads, the onus is on you to put forward more of your female stars – both up and coming and established – across every practice you can so that we can consider them for our rankings. And on a personal level, we improve our research through an active ongoing dialogue – I encourage readers to contact me personally if you feel strong performers have slipped through our net.
Without these names there’s a limit to what our researchers can do but once they’re out there, being talked about in the market, The Legal 500 can help build their brand and the firm’s for years to come.
Obviously, diversity extends far beyond gender and our rankings extend beyond individuals. This is not the end of the dialogue – just a beginning of a process where we can renew and update on the analysis of The Legal 500 to reflect a rapidly-changing industry.
It is a topic that is going to be discussed at a Legal Business/Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer event next week celebrating the City’s outstanding female lawyers both in-house and in private practice. At Legal Business’ request, I will be chairing the debate with Freshfields partner Natasha Good.
But because this matters to me and The Legal 500, I want your thoughts. Please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org