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Magic circle 'suffering from glass ceiling'

Posted by: Laurence Simons 11/11/13

The news that the magic circle has a glass ceiling might sound like the kind of psuedo-gibberish used in old spy films to identify a compatriot in a crowded Algerian bar: "The magic circle has a glass ceiling and the moon is gibbous tonight, eh?"

Unfortunately, we're not dealing with anything as exciting as international espionage - instead, this is another report criticising the legal industry for its slow improvement of diversity standards.

According to research from The Chambers Student Guide, magic circle firms such as Linklaters are lagging behind their less prestigious partners when it comes to promoting women to partners.

The benchmark for female partners is 23.3 per cent across all firms surveyed, reports Law Gazette, but just 19.1 per cent of partners within the magic circle are women.

Allen & Overy scored the lowest with just 16 per cent, the report found.

Regional firms tended to outperform their urban rivals - the only London firms near the top are private client outfits and US firms with small partnerships, according to Chambers.

Magic circle firms also came in below average for gender diversity, but did look better than other companies when it came to hiring staff of different ethnicities.

"This can probably be put down these firm's consistent hiring of candidates who come from overseas or have an international background," said the report.

Leigh Day came away with the most credit - females partners account for 65 per cent of top-tier staff at the human rights firm, while it also has an ethnic diversity score of 31 per cent at partnership level.

Despite the negativity of this report, though, the legal sector has made great strides in recent years to attract people from different backgrounds to the profession.

Indeed, a Laurence Simons report recently found that 18 per cent of lawyers are from non-white ethnic backgrounds, compared to 14 per cent of the UK as a whole.

Chris Cayley, Laurence Simons' managing director for Europe, the Middle East and Asia, said: "Far from the stuffy image law has traditionally had, it's actually a very diverse profession. This reflects both its meritocracy and the capacity for the UK legal sector to attract talent from all around the world."