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Wake Up Call: Freshfields Sets 40% Female New Partner Target

March 8, 2021, 1:40 PM

In today’s column, the Covid-19 pandemic has aggravated systemic inequities that make it harder for women to switch firms; Weil and Sheppard Mullin were among the latest Big Law firms to announce big 2020 partner profits despite the pandemic; Microsoft blamed China for a breach of its Exchange product that is growing into a global cyber security crisis.

  • Leading off, elite U.K.-founded firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer said that by 2026 it wants women to account for at least 40% of its new partners. The London-based firm on Monday, International Women’s Day, announced new five year diversity and inclusion commitments and targets that include, among other goals, doubling its number of black associates by 2026 and having LGBTQ lawyers account for at least 5% of its global partnership by 2026. ( In July 2020, Freshfields was one of 17 major law firms that joined a U.K. push for more diverse recruitment. (BLAW)
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened systemic and structural inequities that make it more difficult for women than men to change law firms, a report says. (
  • Morrison & Foerster partner Susan Mac Cormac says two decades ago her mentor at the firm was initially skeptical when she proposed a practice to help companies become more environmentally responsible. Now, the San Francisco-based Mac Cormac chairs the firm’s energy, and social enterprise and impact investing practices. The Financial Times looked at career paths that Mac Cormac and two other women lawyers took to work at what it calls the “intersection of climate and the law.” (Financial Times)
  • With hundreds of Capitol riot criminal cases backed up, the Washington, D.C., district court plans to restart in-person jury trials March 15. (National Law Journal)
  • Some law firms, including Nixon Peabody, Perkins Coie, and McGuireWoods, are looking at bringing their workforce back in-office during the summer, while Ropes & Gray is targeting the early fall. Other firms are not requiring employees work in-person this year at all. (American Lawyer) Meanwhile, many staffers don’t want to return to offices. (American Lawyer)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • Weil, Gotshal & Manges’ extremely busy restructuring practice during the pandemic and its “very active” transactional practice in 2020’s last half powered a 9.2% increase in gross revenue to $1.657 billion, while its profits per partner gained 12.1% to $4.5 million. (American Lawyer)
  • Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton said a varied practice mix helped propel its PEP up 11.1% to $2 million in 2020. Its gross revenues rose 8.5% to $867.4 million. The firm reduced staff by 5% but its overall lawyer head count rose 2.9%. (The Recorder)
  • Kansas City, Missouri-based Husch Blackwell implemented, furloughs, layoffs, staff pay cuts, and other austerity measures in April. The firm’s revenue for the year rose 9.7% to about $417.1 million while its PEP soared 19.1%, to $774,000. (American Lawyer)
  • Baker Botts’ gross revenue shrank 5.4% to about $710.8 million in 2020 but its PEP swelled 15.3% to around $1.85 million. Headcount fell 2.1% and equity partnership shrank to 165 while nonequity partnership jumped 32.4% to 119. (Texas Lawyer)
  • The CEO and managing partner of Australia’s biggest law firm, MinterEllison, is facing ouster after sending a group email criticizing the firm’s longest serving partner for representing a prominent government official accused of a rape decades ago. (Financial Review)

Laterals, Moves

  • Hunton Andrews Kurth said former legal policy director at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, John Lee Shepherd, Jr., joined the firm as a partner in Washington. He earlier spent close to 18 years as an energy litigator at Skadden, Arps. (


  • Accellion Inc. hired Latham & Watkins for legal help as the cyber security company faces lawsuits over breaches of its file transfer product used by law firms, companies, and government agencies. (American Lawyer) Microsoft Corp. has blamed a major attack on its widely used Exchange business email software on a Chinese government-backed hacking group. (Bloomberg News via BLAW)

To contact the correspondent on this story: Rick Mitchell in Paris at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at; Darren Bowman at