Gender disparity in law firms at partner level

Despite women dominating the industry, men are at the top position of partner in the legal industry
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Despite women dominating the industry, men are at the top position of partner in the legal industry

New Zealand's legal industry has made little progress on addressing gender disparity at partner level, new study reveals.

For a third year the research conducted by Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA) and law firm recruiters McLeod Duminy showed that despite women making up the majority in the legal workforce, men still dominate the top position of partner.

Of the 94 New Zealand law firms surveyed, the study found 64 per cent of senior management are women but less than a fifth are equity partners (share in profits of the firm), McLeod Duminy recruiter Kirsty Spears said.

The study also looked at wages, flexibility of work and the rate of employment in the legal market.

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More law firms are offering bonus payments as part of the compensation mix at NZ law firms but these are generally offered exclusively to lawyers and executive staff.

Spears said that an individual approach to bonuses may disadvantage women, tend to be team players, while men tend to look after their own career first can lead to unintended pay disparity.

President of ALPMA and general manager at law firm Lowndes Jordan, Sheryll Carey said awarding bonus payments to all staff can poses an opportunity for firms to create a culture for team work.

There is a growing perception of the gender-based pay gap reducing both at the partner level and in the wider industry.

With the growing popularity of job flexibility, Carey said the vast majority of firms have adopted this, but the few firms that don't see flexible working hours in their future are "going to lose the battle for employee hearts and minds".

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"In a highly competitive market, they may struggle to retain quality staff, let alone make themselves an attractive destination for new talent," she said.

Despite the need for more women at the partner level the industry shows continued mobility in the legal industry with more than half expecting to hire new staff to grow their firm.

 

 - Stuff

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