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Clifford Chance Sets Global Gender, Diversity Targets

July 13, 2020, 11:01 PM

Clifford Chance announced sweeping targets for increasing the number of female, LGBT, and minority ethnicity attorneys among its ranks worldwide.

The London-based firm hopes to have at least 40% female and at least 40% male partners worldwide by 2030, and at least 3% LGBT partners by 2025. The firm’s goals are further broken down by region, where targets are based on specific areas that need improvement.

“If we really believe inclusion is a core value and economic imperative, now is the time we should be doubling down,” said Tiernan Brady, the firm’s global head of inclusion.

The announcement comes as Big Law firms in the U.S. continue to lag behind corporate counterparts when it comes to diversity. Women make up just over 20% of equity partners, and only 7.6% of equity partners are people of color, according to a December 2019 report by the National Association for Law Placement.

Law firms have traditionally had a poor track record when it comes to generating real diversity gains, though efforts have grown in recent years though initiatives like Diversity Lab’s Mansfield Rule, now in its fourth iteration.

In the Americas and Continental Europe, Clifford Chance has set a goal of increasing the proportion of female partners by 35% by 2025 and 100% by 2030. In the Americas region, women currently make up 17.6% of the partnership. By 2030, the firm hopes that will be 35.2%.

The firm has also set various regional goals for the hiring and retention of minority attorneys.

In the U.S. and U.K. regions, 15% of new partners and 30% of senior associates and business professionals by 2025 will be members of minority groups.

In Clifford Chance’s U.S. offices, only 5.7% partners self-identified as members of ethnic minorities in 2019. In London, 7.5% of partners identified as having a minority ethnic origin.

“Ethnic minority experiences are different in every region and vary by ethnicity,” said Brady. For example, “in Australia, we’re looking at indigenous Australian populations.”

Clifford Chance is not the first law firm to publicly announce its own particular gender and diversity targets, but it claims to be the first to set specific targets across all offices globally.

Last summer, Baker McKenzie set specific gender targets, with the goal of having 40% women among its partner and senior business official ranks by 2025. The firm also set immediate gender targets for its candidate pools for external recruitment.

Baker McKenzie said it adopted those new targets after realizing it would not meet its 2012 goals of having 30% women among equity partners and 40% women among non-equity partners.

Clifford Chance’s Brady said that deadlines are the only way to make sure firms deliver on their promises. “Targets without deadlines are just conversation,” he said.

“We hope others will follow, and I believe they will,” said Brady. “That’s how it should be. We’re the sector that should understand equal status and standing, we’re the law.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Russell-Kraft in New York at srussellkraft@gmail.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com

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