‘Still Much Progress to be Made’: Freshfields Reveals Modest Improvements in Pay Gap Stats

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is a founding member of Legal CORE (Collaboration on Race and Ethnicity), and it’s the first of the five Magic Circle firms to reveal its 2021 pay gap statistics. Legal CORE was launched in 2020 to tackle the underrepresentation of ethnic minority groups in the legal sector.

The report showed that on average, men are paid 52.1% more per hour than women, and on a median basis the difference is 13%, which is an improvement from 54.5% and 17% in 2020, respectively. As for bonus pay gaps, men received bonuses 12% higher than women, up considerably from the 2% disparity in 2020.

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At the partnership level, women are on average paid 2.6% more than men, but they still only make up 24% of partners. Half of the 22 new partners promoted globally in April 2021 were women. In comparison, Clifford Chance shared that its gender pay gap for employees narrowed last year, from 19.1% to 16.6%, although the gap was 64.9% when partners are included.

As for ethnicity pay gaps, on average, staff who identify as part of a minority ethnic group are paid 51% less than those who do not, down from 60% in 2020. The mean difference in pay was 7%, down from 13%. 19% of U.K. partners and employees identified as part of a minority ethnic group. At a partnership level, this number falls to 7%. In contrast, the ethnicity pay gap at Clifford Chance for employees and partners went up by 6.1% to 53.6%.

Disability pay gap statistics indicated that associates who identify as disabled are paid on average 53% less than non-disabled colleagues, down from 65%.

The firm has recently implemented new policies to improve its gender balance by making adjustments to family leave policies and adding pregnancy loss and menopause policies. The lack of diversity, especially at senior levels, led the firm to launch its Future Leaders Programme in order to support Black and ethnically diverse colleagues. In March 2021, it announced its commitment to doubling the number of Black associates in the firm by 2026, but it acknowledges there is still much more to be done to address equity and underrepresentation.