The LawFuel Gender Survey: New Zealand’s Most Female-Friendly Law Firms in 2020

The LawFuel Gender Survey: New Zealand’s Most Female-Friendly Big Law Firms in 2020

The LawFuel Gender Survey: New Zealand's Most Female-Friendly Law Firms in 2020 3

The LawFuel Gender Survey: New Zealand's Most Female-Friendly Law Firms in 2020 4

Gender equality continues as one of the major objectives for most law firms who seek to equalize female partner numbers to the preponderance of female law graduates, as well as the demand for greater opportunity for women to reach the highest levels of legal practice.

The LawFuel law firm survey, undertaken in September 2020 ranks equity partners only, rather than equity and salaried partners and shows Dentons as the ‘gender leader’ with 41 per cent of their partners being female.   Last year’s leader, DLA Piper, remains at 38 per cent female partners and sits at no. 2 in the list with Anderson Lloyd remaining in no. 3 position with 33 per cent female leaders.


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Equity Partner Numbers



% Equity

Total Female Partners

Equity Ranking 2019





No. 2.  Last year (as Kensington Swan) 33%


DLA Piper*



No. 1.  Last year 38%


Anderson Lloyd



3.  Last year 32%


Russell McVeagh



4.  Last year 31%


Meredith Connell



5.  Last year 28%


Simpson Grierson



5.  Last year 26%


Chapman Tripp



8.  Last year 22%





9.  Last year 26%


Buddle Findlay



5=  Last year 26%


Bell Gully



7  Last year 23%


Lane Neave*



6.  Last year 25%


Tompkins Wake**



No Listing


Duncan Cotterill



No listing

*Lane Neave has 24 partners in total, of whom 10 are female (42 per cent) and four female partners who are equity-sharing.

**Tompkins Wake have 13 equity partners, of whom 3 are women (23 per cent), with a total partner complement of 24, of whom 10 are women (42 per cent).

Anthony Harper did not respond with information on the partner split.  However the firm has 30 partners of whom seven are women (23 per cent)

Check the 2019 Gender Survey rankings here


What Are The Firms Doing to Promote Female Leaders?

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A variety of initiatives are being taken by law firms to increase the number of women at the board table.

Dentons, the List leader has 50 per cent of their board female and has 60 per cent and 62 per cent respectively of their Special Counsel and Associates who are female.

The LawFuel Gender Survey: New Zealand's Most Female-Friendly Law Firms in 2020 5“We believe our continued gender diversity initiatives have created a culture that has removed some of the traditional barriers to women reaching senior levels,” says Pippa Grey, (pictured) Business Development Manager at Dentons.

“The initiatives have been implemented through strong Board, CEO and leadership adoption and deep consultation and engagement with staff at all levels.”

The firm includes unconscious bias training, ‘targeted confidence’ training and a partnership deed ensuring board representation for both genders.

Minter Ellison Rudd Watts (30 per cent female partners) The LawFuel Gender Survey: New Zealand's Most Female-Friendly Law Firms in 2020 6note that they have a female chair (Sarah Sinclair, left) and along with other firms their gender split in the Special Counsel and Associate ranks has a high female quotient, being 63 per cent and 72 per cent respectively.

Cavell Leitch match Dentons with their 50 per cent women ratio, although obviously of considerably smaller size. The firm have six equity partners, of whom three are women.  They have 14 partners in total, of whom seven are women also. 

Towards the bottom of the table, Tompkins Wake note that although at 13 per cent female equity partners, they note that seven of the last 10 partner hires – with 10 in total – were women.

Linda Clark Interview: LawFuel

The LawFuel Gender Survey: New Zealand's Most Female-Friendly Law Firms in 2020 7
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The Gender Issues Continue

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The firms have increasingly embraced the equity partnership model with an increase in the number of female partners in equity partnership.

One of the disappointments is with one of the largest firms, the 30 partner Anthony Harper who have just  seven female partners who may or may not be equity partners.

Wynn Williams (21 partners, 11 female) indicated that not all partners were equity, but of those who were, ‘over 50 per cent’ were women.  However as we do not know the number of equity partners in total we are unable to provide an accurate record of where the firm sits in the table.  If all were equity, then over 50 per cent would, of course, place them front and centre.

Gender Equality – Gender equality has been a major driver for recent Law Society initiatives with the Gender Equality Charter set up in 2018 to assist in the closing of the gap, examining recruitment retention, work allocation and pay issues.


Give us your feedback about gender issues in New Zealand law firms.

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