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Maurice Turnor Gardner a beacon of hope for women seeking equality when it comes to partnership prospects

The number of solicitors with practicing certificates continued to rise this year, despite predictions that the recession would herald a decline. Figures published by The Law Society annual statistical report show that women now account for 45% of practicing solicitors. However, while this seems to indicate there is improving gender equality in the legal profession, the Law Society and the Association of Women Solicitors are still concerned about pay inequality.

Fiona Fitzgerald, former chairwoman of the Association of Women Solicitors, said that the ‘pay gap demonstrates not only that many women are not equally rewarded for equal work but, most significantly, that women are not making the progress through the profession that they should’.[1] This has been noted in the sizeable gulf that still exists between men and women when it comes to partnership prospects.

Even after the figures have been adjusted to equalise levels of experience, far more men achieve partnership status. When Clare Maurice, senior partner of Maurice Turnor Gardner, became a partner at Allen & Overy in 1985 she was notably the only female partner at the firm. Now, at the turn of the decade, this number has not radically improved in many magic circle law firms with partnerships for women being around 15%.

Clare McConnell, current chairwoman of the AWS, commented to the Law Society that the disparity does a ‘disservice to women solicitors and their individual talents and to the profession as a whole’.[2]

Maurice Turnor Gardner has certainly demonstrated that female talent in the profession deserves partnership credit on an equal level to men. The firm has notoriously reversed the proportion of female partnerships as all but one of the six partners are women. This emphasis on the firm’s gender make up has received much attention as a first for a City law firm. Perhaps it is the successful combination of female intuition alongside a continuance of many traditional legal values when it comes to client service that ensures Maurice Turnor Gardner a solid place in the legal profession and should be seen as an encouraging development for women seeking better equality at partnership level.

Clare Maurice, who the first female partner at Allen & Overy LLP, was recently asked her views by Luke McLeod-Roberts of The Lawyer.

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