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Proportion of women partners/directors inches upwards

04 February 2016

Women make up 25.6% of partners and directors in New Zealand law firms with more than one lawyer.

Information from the New Zealand Law Society shows that there has been slow but steady growth in the number of women partners and directors. A year ago women comprised 24.6% of partners and directors, and two years ago they made up 23.5%.

New Zealand Law Society Executive Director Christine Grice says that while it is pleasing to see more women being appointed to senior roles in law firms, there is a long way to go.

"It's an uncomfortable fact that women now comprise 46.5% of the lawyers working in our law firms, but make up only 25.6% of the partners and directors," she says.

"We have 494 law firms - 53% of all firms with more than one lawyer - where the partners and directors are all men. There are 123 firms (16%) where the partners and directors are all women. I am encouraged that 14% of our law firms have an equal gender split in partners and directors. Yes, there has been progress, but it is still too slow. Over the last year year there has been just a 1% fall in the number of law firms where women partners and directors are in a minority."

Ms Grice says the Law Society is now focusing on ways in which the proportion of women in senior roles and leadership positions can be increased.

"There is increasing evidence that unconscious bias is a factor when law firms are looking at who should be promoted to a partnership or directorship," she says.

"It is a subtle problem and there is far less overt bias against women than was the case a decade or so ago. However, perceptions that women may leave in the future to have children or to look after the family or that they will not be as committed to the firm as their male counterparts still appear to influence thinking in some law firms."

The New Zealand Law Society has established a Women's Advisory Panel. It will consider issues and initiatives which could make a real difference to improving the retention and advancement of women within the legal profession.

New Zealand Law Firms with more than one lawyer, 1 February 2016 ("PC" = practising certificates; "P/Ds" = partners/directors)

Partners/
Directors
FirmsPCsP/DsFemale
PCs
Female
P/Ds
% Female
PCs
% Female
P/Ds
20+13171944685410249.7%22.9%
10 to 19227312853637649.7%26.7%
4 to 9147172075474617143.4%22.7%
1 to 375027451238125334945.6%28.2%
Total93269152723321669846.5%25.6%


New Zealand Law Firms with more than one lawyer, 1 February 2015 ("PC" = practising certificates; "P/Ds" = partners/directors)

Partners/
Directors
FirmsPCsP/DsFemale
PCs
Female
P/Ds
% Female
PCs
% Female
P/Ds
20+1216584238079248.7%21.7%
10 to 19196452393106248.1%25.9%
4 to 9152182679478916843.2%21.2%
1 to 375026341241117134144.5%27.5%
Total93367632697307766345.5%24.6%

 
 Number of law firms by proportion of women or men who are partners/directors, 1 February

Firms2016Pcnt 20162015Pcnt 2015
100% Women12313.2%12313.2%
51 to 99% Women262.8%242.6%
50% Women/Men13414.4%12913.8%
51 to 99% Men15516.6%15116.2%
100% Men49453.0%50654.2%
Total932100.0%933100.0%


The information above does not include law firms with one lawyer (sole practices). At 1 February 2016 there were 992 sole practices, of which 329 (33.2%) were operated by a woman lawyer. At 1 February 2015 there were 944 sole practices, of which 299 (31.7%) were operated by a woman lawyer.

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Last updated on the 4th February 2016