“No surprise” – significant gender pay gap reported at UK law firms with highly rated trademark practices

  • Figures of the gender pay gap of thousands of companies released publicly in the UK
  • UK law firms with highly ranked trademark practices have 28.7% gender pay gap
  • Expert says figures are “no surprise”, calls for improvements to attract/retain best staff

Information collated by World Trademark Review can reveal that UK law firms with highly ranked trademark practices pay women a median hourly rate that is, on average, 28.7% lower than male colleagues. This gender pay gap is significantly higher than the UK national average of 18.4%, with one industry expert reflecting that there is “much work still to be done” to tackle inequality in the legal industry.

All companies in the United Kingdom with more than 250 employees are now required to report their gender pay gap. The publicly-released data, the first of its kind of the world, reveals the difference between the average hourly earnings of men and women across just over 10,000 public bodies and private companies. The Guardian has looked at the total data reported, and notes that eight in 10 companies and public-sector bodies pay men more than women, with an average 9.7% median gender pay gap (the median hourly rate gender pay gap of all employees in the UK is 18.4%).

To get an idea of how UK law firms with highly rated trademark practices compare to the average, World Trademark Review collated the gender pay gap data from the UK firms ranked in this year’s WTR 1000.

Overall, the data from the 27 firms we examined (some of the WTR 1000 ranked firms were not required to report) reveals a 28.7% median gender hourly pay gap and a 19.7% mean gender hourly pay gap. That figure is higher than the national average – in fact, just one firm (DLA Piper) had a median gender pay gap below the national average. To clarify, the available information does not drill down into particular practice areas, so our findings present the firm-wide picture rather than disparity amongst trademark practitioners.

Gender pay gap at UK law firms with highly ranked trademark practices (click here for full data)

WTR 1000 2018 ranking Gender pay gap report Median gender pay gap Mean gender pay gap
Allen & Overy LLP Gold PDF 27.4% 19.8%
Baker McKenzie LLP Gold PDF 32.0% 17.4%
Bird & Bird LLP Gold PDF 27.6% 14.5%
Brodies LLP Gold PDF 19.00% 13.00%
Burness Paull LLP Gold PDF 26.60% 19.60%
Olswang LLP Gold HTML 32.8% 17.3%
Taylor Wessing Gold PDF 32.8% 13.5%
Browne Jacobson LLP Silver PDF 34.0% 21.0%
Burges Salmon LLP Silver PDF 35.2% 23.3%
Charles Russell Speechlys Silver PDF 28.1% 22.0%
Fieldfisher LLP Silver PDF 22.2% 16.5%
Hogan Lovells Silver PDF 26.0% 15.3%
Lewis Silkin Silver PDF 34.1% 18.3%
Mishcon de Reya LLP Silver PDF 37.4% 17.3%
RPC Silver PDF 30.0% 26.0%
Simmons & Simmons LLP Silver PDF 27.9% 26.1%
Stephenson Harwood LLP Silver PDF 39.8% 24.7%
Blake Morgan Bronze PDF 32.8% 26.1%
Clyde & Co LLP Bronze PDF 20.1% 14.3%
Dentons Bronze PDF 34.3% 22.4%
DLA Piper UK LLP Bronze PDF 12.2% 17.8%
Marks & Clerk LLP Bronze PDF 26.9% 25.8%
Norton Rose Fulbright LLP Bronze PDF 23.8% 17.0%
Osborne Clarke Bronze PDF 31.7% 24.4%
Pinsent Masons Bronze HTML 22.4% 22.4%
Reed Smith LLP Bronze PDF 37.1% 14.8%
Squire Patton Boggs Bronze PDF 20.2% 21.7%

In addition to the data providing a firm-wide picture, it is worth stressing that the data is not perfect; it looks at the hourly pay gap across an entire business, so does not address pay disparity in similar job roles (it is illegal in the UK to pay people performing the same or “equivalent value” job differently because of their gender) and, due to exemptions, some roles are not recorded at all (such as high-ranking roles, including partners, and non-employed roles, such as low-paid workers). We are therefore left with an incomplete picture.

Nonetheless, the figures are a reminder of the inequality of pay that exists in the legal sector (it also includes data on bonus pay, which we have included in our full data set). In response, a significant proportion of the law firms we looked at stress that things are improving. Delving into the gender pay gap reports that most firms put together (and are all linked to in the table above), many identify the initiatives they have introduced to create a better gender balance in the future. For example, Stephenson Harwood, which has the highest median gender pay gap (39.8%) of all the firms we looked at, states that it is “confident that men and women are paid the same for doing equivalent jobs across our business”, but that it is undertaking efforts to promote “a level playing field” to reduce its sizeable gender pay gap. The firm launched a female career progression programme in 2014 “to support female associates in overcoming some of the gender specific challenges, and perceived challenges, of working in the legal profession”, and has also established “She Networks”, a “female associate driven initiative [of] educational and networking events”.

Allen & Overy, which has a 27.4% median gender pay gap, admits that “women become less well represented in more senior positions” and that the firm has “not succeeded in retaining and promoting enough of our best women”. To address this, it has established a Gender Advisory Committee and introduced “rigorous reporting across all offices to track how well we are sponsoring and progressing women”. Baker McKenzie, which has a 32.8% gender pay gap, claims that the disparity “disappears altogether when associate roles are examined on a standalone basis”, but admits that it has “too few women in the most senior roles in our organisation”. To address this issue, the firm says it will be introducing “gender balanced long-lists for senior hires” and has already launched “a very active mixed-gender employee network, BakerWomen, to share ideas and best practice to inform our gender strategy”.

Overall, then, most firms in the table above claim to be actively working to reduce their gender pay gap. But these initiatives are not enough, argues one industry expert, and that a sector-wide change of culture needs to happen. Isla Grant, a consultant editor at LawCareers.Net, tells World Trademark Review that the results are “no surprise”, expanding: “It is all part of a larger gender equality issue that the legal profession has, dominated as it still is in its senior ranks by white, middle/upper-class men, who often choose to recruit and promote in their own image. Significantly in terms of the pay gap, most London-based firms have not provided data on partner earnings, which would undoubtedly reveal an even larger disparity.”

Indeed, recent figures from legal recruiter Major, Lindsey & Africa looked at the pay of partners at UK law firms, and found that female partners earn “24% less than men”. Beyond pay, LawCareers.Net recently penned a feature on the “gender problem” in the UK legal profession, and found that working conditions are often significantly worse for women at British law firms – including the claim that “the covering up of sexual assault and harassment”, and the subsequent “payment to the victim in return for signing a non-disclosure agreement”, is “a significant problem”.

As Grant adds, it is in the best interest of firms to address inequality of all forms – especially when it comes to attracting and retaining the most outstanding staff. “While the profession has no problem attracting women to study law and boasts a roughly 50/50 split in terms of trainees, it has a significant issue with retaining them beyond a particular career stage,” she observes. “Embracing equality in terms of earnings and opportunity is crucial if firms want to hang on to the dynamic, motivated and capable young women that seek to join the profession. However, many of the firms that we work with are aware that in order to attract the best talent, they need to change their offering – and we have seen an increasing number of examples, including: flexible/agile working for all employees (male and female); mentoring and sponsorship schemes; greater transparency in terms of promotion and pay; and a genuine commitment to offering women a long-term career. There is much work still to be done, but at least with this new data, the conversation is finally being had – in the open.”

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