The rising prominence of female in-house lawyers

James Franklin 02.03.2020

With International Women’s Day on the 8th March, we wanted to highlight the impressive statistics of female placements from our Legal division since the start of 2019.

Vast majority of lawyers placed by Morgan McKinley are female

Since 1st January 2019, 87% of Morgan McKinley's Legal division placements have been female. Of these placements, 100% were lawyers moving into in-house roles. Therefore all the lawyers placed in-house were women.

Gender split of Legal placements (since 1st Jan 2019)

This is not a new phenomenon, but as a business that has been specialising in in-house legal recruitment for legal professionals, this is an exceptional number. 

The future of in-house law is female

In June 2018, Legal Business produced an article: "The future is female – women lawyers outnumber men in the UK as the in-house boom continues", in which it examined the number of female and male lawyers qualifying between 2017 and 2018. Here the margins were slim, but female lawyers just pipped the males at 50.1% of the entire qualified practising legal profession. 

Moreover, the article stated "The recently-released figures, contained in the Law Society’s Annual Statistics Report for 2017, show women made up a significant majority of new admissions in 2016/17, at 61.6%. In total there are now 69,995 female practising certificate holders." This provides a clear indication that there is a continued increase of women to the legal profession and then a further swing occurs within the same group, moving to in-house roles.

There are potentially many reasons why this phenomenon is occurring, but the obvious is the increasing opportunities to have a better work/life balance, allowing females to bring up a family and continue a career as a senior lawyer. This ultimately comes as they move away from the hours and lifestyle of a private practice lawyer. Virtually all of the legal roles that Morgan McKinley has placed have offered the chosen applicant the opportunity to work from home on at least one day per week, have been child friendly, allowing parents to manage childcare and importantly still offer the brightest talent to be able to further their careers through promotion and increased responsibility.

Rise of female in-house lawyers

Is the gender pay gap finally closing?

Furthermore, Totally Legal recently released its 2019 Audience Insight report, where 2,800 legal professionals shared details of their working lives. Overall, the gender pay gap was at 28%, but interestingly the increase of female in-house lawyers meant that this particular area had closed the gap to 7%; when considering Partners in law firms, the gap remains at 25%. 

A statistic which particularly stands out in this report is that, for the first time, women have been out earning their male peers in Litigation. If you look at the number of in-house roles that require litigation lawyers, it is very low, so it could be argued that women litigators have carved out a very strong career without having to consider moving in-house.

Overall, the market is currently very positive for in-house lawyers and in particular women seeking new roles where they can combine the desires for growing their career with the challenges of family life. Even at the time of writing, we have more female candidates expecting offers for in-house roles.

James Franklin's picture
Head of Legal, UK
jfranklin@morganmckinley.com

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