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Law partners suspect gender pay gaps

A significant number of female partners are not being paid as much as men doing similar work

Just two in five (38%) female law partners know they are being paid the same amount as their male colleagues, according to research by law firm CM Murray.

As businesses across sectors prepare to meet the gender pay gap reporting deadline this April, law firms will not be required to release data on their pay gap among partners, as LLP members fall outside the regulations.

However, a survey by CM Murray has revealed that a significant number of female partners are not being paid as much as men doing similar work. Even within the same departments 28% of women said they were paid less than similarly-performing or less well-performing male partners. A further one in five (20%) said that they did not know whether they are being paid at the same level as men, because of a lack of transparency in profit share allocation.

Clare Murray, founder and managing partner of CM Murray, said: “It is not surprising that the true extent of the partner pay gap remains under wraps; lack of transparency, even among partners, is one of the biggest issues in professional services firms.

“Unfortunately the gender pay gap reporting regulations missed a significant and obvious opportunity to redress the issues as LLP members and partners are excluded from those regulations, and so fall outside the reporting requirements.”

Further findings from the survey revealed the contributing factors behind the gender pay gap in law firms. A third (33%) said that the partnership contribution criteria disadvantage women returning from maternity leave, and 38% said that the criteria in their firm disadvantage women with childcare responsibilities.

A lack of career development was also highlighted as a concern, with 40% saying that women are held back by the culture surrounding client referrals and business development opportunities. The same was found to be true for internal work referrals, according to 36% of respondents.

Geraldine Gallacher, MD of the Executive Coaching Consultancy, said that firms should be publishing partner pay gap data even though not obliged to. “I would fully expect more forward-thinking firms to have published data; even though it’s not a legal requirement they’re not acting within the spirit of the law. From my experience, a lot of male partners are uncomfortable with the situation but they don’t feel that it’s within their power to change it,” she told HR magazine.

“I’ve told them that the best thing they can do is offer more flexibility. A lot of people in law are very passionate and will work 24/7 for their clients, but a job shouldn’t be anyone’s entire life, and working in that way can be particularly difficult for women with commitments to their families.”

CM Murray spoke to 41 female partners and law firm partners and law firm directors, with a third (31%) of firms comprising more than 100 partners.

Sarah Chilton, published in HR Magazine

By Rachel Muller-Heyndyk