“Is there a gender glass ceiling in London’s top law firms?”

  • Origin Legal
  • “Is there a gender glass ceiling in London’s top law firms?”

Statistics suggest Magic Circle lagging behind when it comes to making female Solicitors up to Partner when compared to the rest of London and other areas of the UK

Female lawyers in Magic Circle firms are half as likely to make Partner as their counterparts in the top twenty firms within the capital. According to the latest research from Origin Legal, Legal Recruitment Specialists, just 6 (18%) of the 34 Partners made up in Magic Circles were female which is in stark contrast to the 23 women (36.5%) of 66 made up in the remaining members of London’s Top 20. The disparity is highlighted further when you look further afield for female Partners, with 16 of 26 in West End firms (61%) and 17 of 29 (58%) in the Midlands.

To generate the figures, Origin profiled the qualification dates and practice area across London firms, including the Magic Circle, West End firms as well as the Midlands of newly promoted Partners. The gender imbalance is concerning given that in 2016, 136,176 Solicitors* held current practising certificates, of these Solicitors 49.5% were women and 50.5% men. Why the stats at the top law firms were so lop-sided could be for various reasons, and more research would need to be undertaken to draw further conclusions.

2017 was a bumper year for promotions within Magic Circle firms with 1.23% of Solicitors made up outstripping the rest of London. However, similar to 2016, the figures show that the sweet spot for making Partner in London focuses around the 8-12 year PQE milestone, accounting for 69.5% of those made up in the West End firms and 65% in the London Top 20 combined. The situation softens in the Midlands, but again showcases the urgency for any Solicitors approaching this landmark that they should be considering their position.

Rupert Haxell, Owner at Origin Legal, believes the research throws up some ‘worrying trends’ within the Magic Circle firms, saying: “The discrepancy in the number of a female partners made up is a concern when you see it in context to other regions. Does it point to there being a reluctance within the Magic Circle firms to promote women in the heart of London? On the face of it yes but more research is needed to understand why there is such a difference. Many of our clients are working hard to address the imbalance and ensure equal opportunities and evidence of this can be seen in the rest of the survey statistics.

The 2017 figures back up our last Partner survey which highlights how there seems to be an experience cap for making partner within London and that any solicitor that is 6-8 years PQE should be starting a conversation.”

Download a PDF of the full survey here.

*The survey refers to figures published by The Law Society for more details please refer to

About The Author

Picture of Rupert Haxell
Rupert Haxell
Picture of Rupert Haxell
Rupert Haxell

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