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Allen & Overy's New Partner Class Is 40 Percent Women

Vivia Chen

March 30, 2012

Girlw:Brit Flag© Yuri Arcurs - Fotolia.comMuch of the news stories I deliver about women are downers. I admit it, and I'm sorry. So let me try to even the score with some hopeful news. This bit of cheer comes from our friends across the pond.

Allen & Overy just announced its new partners, and there are nine women among the 23 new partners—almost 40 percent! Not too shabby for a Magic Circle firm.

Legal Week  reports that this is "a significant increase on the two female promotions [out of 21] the firm made last year." According to the firm's press release, the majority (73 percent) of new partners  are based outside London. Judging by their locations and last names, these newbie partners are quite diverse. Definitely not the same old Anglo stuff shirt.

You might recall that Allen & Overy made a lot of noise when it initiated its part-time policy for equity partners almost two years ago. The firm said that the goal was to retain women in its ranks. That policy allows partners to work a four-day week, or full-time but with the addition of 52 days of vacation every year on top of the 30 days they already have. And yes, the firm already had part-time policies for associates and staff in place.

At the time, I wasn't that sold on it as being more than a nice PR move. And it's still hard to say whether that part-time policy made a difference. (We are waiting to hear from the firm on that issue.) In any case, though, I suppose those work/life balance goodies didn't hurt.

With these recent elevations, A&O seems to be giving Slaughter and May, which has had the highest percentage of women partners (18 percent at last count) among the Magic Circle firms, a run for its money. (We'll tabulate who's ahead in a later post.)

Most big British firms, though, aren't doing so well on the women front. Like their American counterparts, British women equity partners seem stuck in that notorious 15–16 percent rut.

But according to Laurence Simons, a U.K.–based recruiting firm, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands are paradigms of progress for female lawyers compared to the rest of Europe. Both countries have 16 percent women partners, says Simons, while Spain has the lowest proportion of female partners (6.3 percent). Germany, despite having a woman at the helm, is not much better (9.6 percent female partners), while Italy and France have around 13 percent women.

Okay, so the news about female lawyers still isn't great in Europe or the U.S. But we'll take what morsels of progress we can get.

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Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at VChen@alm.com.

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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