Sherwood Report on Gender Balance in Law Firms – Could Try Harder!

school reportImagine it’s coming up to the end of the Easter term at school. Report time for law firms! Some A’s, a few B’s, but on Diversity and Inclusion, I’m afraid it’s a ‘Could Try Harder!’

My Sherwood partner Ann Collier carried out research amongst 28 law firms to find out what’s best practice in terms of retaining top female talent. There are some good things happening, but there is evidence that progress has rather plateaued. What do firms need to do differently to move to the next level?

Some notable findings and thoughts from Ann are as follows:

  1. Most firms regard keeping top female talent as strategically important to their business and yet there are still pockets of Partners who do not fully embrace the concept and objectives. Is this being given top priority by the management of your firm?
  2. In many firms the approach to improving gender diversity is not as joined up as it needs to be.  Information needs to be shared widely to enable everyone to understand, support, prioritise and celebrate positive progress. Your firm may offer maternity coaching but does it have processes for ensuring that women are selected for the most important matters or pitches?
  3. It is important that all Partners share the responsibility for achieving greater gender balance at partnership and senior leadership levels. Sherwood believes that firms would benefit from all partners setting Diversity & Inclusion objectives for themselves and their teams each year against which they are measured.
  4. Is Partnership attractive enough?  Many of the upcoming generation of future partners are not sure they want the Partner role in its current form and the accompanying lifestyle. Is your firm promoting the benefits of partnership in a way that appeals to associates?
  5. Are firms measuring what’s working and what isn’t?  Our research suggests that firms aren’t doing enough to measure which gender diversity initiatives are working and which may need further development. For example, has it been worth offering coaching for maternity returners or not? Has training in Unconscious Bias improved recruitment ratios or Performance Appraisals?
  6. Where firms are getting it right it is a powerful recruitment tool.  One firm reported 90% of its current applications for training contracts cite the firm’s approach to diversity as one of their reasons for choosing the firm.

So at least there will be some top female talent coming in at the bottom. Let’s find more ways of keeping this talent motivated and aspiring to get to the top.

Sherwood is interested to hear your thoughts on our findings. If you would like a copy of our findings, please contact

For more insights into this important issue see


This entry was posted in Leadership and Management, Managing Change, Strategy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Sherwood Report on Gender Balance in Law Firms – Could Try Harder!

  1. Reblogged this on Ann Collier and commented:
    A great summary Tony.

  2. Pingback: Are These the Reasons Women are Leaving Law Firms? | Tony Reiss

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