Dan Garner – Female law firm leadership ranks are growing – albeit slowly – but in the London law scene the first of the Magic Circle law firms to appont a woman to the top leadership role has been Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP who have appointed Georgia Dawson as Senior Partner.
Dawson is currently Asia’s managing partner and also leader of the Asia dispute resolution team.
Other major law firms in the US and elsewhere have been slowly moving towards appointing female managing partners. Kelley Drye & Warren has appointed Dana Rosenfeld as its next managing partner at the beginning of the year, while Penelope Warne at CMS, Lesley McDonagh at Lovells and Sonya Leydecker at Herbert Smith have also taken top roles.
However Freshfields has beaten its major London rivals Allen & Overy, Linklaters and Clifford Chance to make the move towards female leadership.
At the major law firms in the US only about one-fifth of partners are female and gender diversity remains problematic globally for female leadership at major law firms, although female law graduation numbers continue to grow.
The Gender Diversity Issue
Corporate legal departments are generally more open to attracting female lawyers. For example, approximately one quarter of Fortune 500 legal departments have female GC’s, and that number continues to rise as more women assume leadership roles in those departments than at law firms.
Apart from the overall drive towards creating greater diversity in the law and an awakening as to its advantages, there has been greater use of flexible working hours and a more advanced attitude towards work/life balance and gender diversity generally.
Another areas where there is slow but steady growth among major law firms is the representation of women on key leadership committees, including the executive committee (25 percent in 2016 vs. 21 percent in 2012), compensation (25 percent vs. 21 percent) and equity partner promotion (27 percent vs. 22 percent) so far as US law stats are concerned.
Having women in the room when the questions of who to advance and compensate are answered is one thing that is helping to create the move towards greater diversity, too.
Georgia Dawson will lead a new senior leadership team which will consist of Alan Mason, Rafique Bachour and Rick van Aerssen.
A statement from the firm said the team will take up its duties in January 2021, succeeding the current senior partner Edward Braham and managing partner Stephan Eilers.
Edward Braham commented: “We are very excited that the leadership of the firm will be taken forward in January by such a highly regarded, dynamic leadership team. Georgia, Alan, Rafique and Rick have outstanding credentials to lead the continued growth and development of the firm, and we look forward to working closely with them to implement a smooth transition over the coming months.”
Georgia Dawson commented: “I am honoured to have been elected by my fellow partners, alongside Alan, Rafique and Rick. With this team we have broad experience and a diversity of perspectives, and a shared purpose and vision for Freshfields. We intend to preserve the very best of our culture, market leading practices and standards of client service while leading the firm into the next chapter of its long history.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Edward and Stephan for their commitment to the firm over many years and particularly during their term of leadership. Their investment in strengthening and deepening our global platform has led to expansion into new markets such as Silicon Valley, creating an exciting foundation for future growth. I look forward to working closely with them to ensure a seamless transition at the end of the year.”
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