The gender pay gap in law looks at what this year’s gender pay gap figures show in the legal sector.



Law firms have had some of the highest gender pay gaps this year. While their numbers for employees tend to be lower than sectors such as education [for instance, Eversheds Sutherland’s median* hourly pay gap is 20.4% and its mean* hourly pay is 19%] when partners, who are self employed, are included in the figures the gap is more significant due to the relative lack of women who are partners and, specifically, senior partners.

This is an issue that some of the more progressive firms have been working on. One of the issues is the hours required to make partner, but some firms have introduced greater flexible working options in recent years.

At Slaughter and May women [employees and partners combined] were paid 47.4% less than men per hour on average [the median gap], up from 42.3% the year before. Their mean hourly pay gap fell, however, with women paid 63.4% less than men compared to 66.4% the year before. The gender bonus gap has fallen, with the median standing at 48.9%, down from 54% in 2019/20.

Its action plan details reverse mentoring, early talent identification, mentoring, leadership development programmes and enhanced parental leave policies as well as close working with recruitment agencies on diversity.  It has launched a gender neutral flexible working pilot to test new ways of working.

At Allen & Overy, the median pay gap for employees and partners combined was 46.4 per cent, up from 39 per cent in 2018 and 44 per cent in 2019.  The mean gap is 59.9%. This is mainly due to the higher number of men who are partners [80% of partners in London are men] and in senior level roles. In terms of employees only at its London office, progress has been made. Both its mean and median pay gaps have fallen, but the firm says the gaps are determined by the number of men in senior roles and the fact that 30% of people are women in business support/administrative roles. The median gender bonus gap has risen from 44.6% to 50% since the last year of reporting, although the mean gender bonus gap has fallen [down from 40.3% to 36.5%]. The gender pay gap for employees is significantly lower at the firm’s Belfast office.

There has been progress on some of the firm’s targets, for instance, the 30% for women partnership candidates by 2021. 45% of new partners this year were women. Another target which has been achieved in most areas is 40% women lawyers at the level below partner level.

Its action plan includes monitoring the female pipeline, supporting existing female development programmes, more flexible working and ensuring that flexible working is not a barrier to progress. It talks about “demonstrating that it is no longer only the traditional, linear career path that can lead to partnership”.

Eversheds Sutherland, which has won awards for its work on gender equality including being ranked in The Times Top 50 Employers for Women and whose CEO was recognised in the 2019 HERoes Women Role Model list as Advocate Executive, had a median hourly pay gap of 20.4% and a mean gap of 19% for all employees. For partners the median gap is 22.7% and the mean is 25.1%.  The combined partner and employee gap is 57.64% [down from 57.78% the year before]. Women are less likely to get a bonus than men and their median bonus pay gap is 50% [the mean gap is 41.7% – down from 43.2% in 2019/20].

Eversheds Sutherland is a member of The 30% club and in 2019 became a signatory to The Law Society’s Women in Law pledge. Its international offices have a target of 30% female partners by 2021.  As at the snapshot date of 5 April 2020, 28% of its UK partnership were women. In 2020 47% of its promotions to the UK partnership were women and it promoted twice as many women to partner than in 2019. 

While its overall pay gap figures for employees are falling, there has been a slight increase in the mean and median figures for lawyers since last year. The firm says this reflects turnover in the reporting period with more senior male hires being recruited. The same is the case for other business professionals. However, there has been an increase in the percentage of women receiving a bonus. 

The firm, like many of the law companies, has a detailed action plan, including a focus on the promotions process, such as increased diversity of interview panels and sponsoring of female and ethnic minority talent, as well as a final review of all decisions at both micro and macro level. It has launched a project to ensure work allocation is based on objective measures such as capacity and skills in order to ensure a level playing field for hidden talent. To further support this, it is launching a Talent Dashboard tool that “enables each Practice Group Head to understand and monitor diverse talent in their business area and better track their progress”.

*NB The mean gender pay gap is a measure of the difference between women’s mean – average – hourly wage and men’s mean hourly wage. The gender pay gap includes a figure for mean hourly pay and for median hourly pay. The median gender pay gap is the difference between women’s median hourly wage (the middle paid woman) and men’s median hourly wage (the middle paid man).


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