Males are four times more likely than females to be appointed to partnership positions, according to the annual Lawyers Weekly partnership survey.
Of the 33 firms that provided statistics on the number of partners appointed this year [including both internal appointments and lateral hires], Freehills, Kennedy Strang and Stacks/Goudkamp were the only three firms that appointed more female than male partners (Stacks only made one partner appointment).
Respondents reported a total of 142 partnership appointments, with 25 of those being female (18 per cent). Despite female law graduates continuing to outnumber their male counterparts, the low percentage of female partner appointments correlates with the overall total female to male partner ratio at most firms, according to the survey.
The only firms with more than one quarter of female partners included Gilbert + Tobin (38 per cent), Holding Redlich (2.25 male partners to every female partner) Johnson Winter & Slattery (30 per cent), Lander & Rogers (30 per cent), Henry Davis York (27 per cent) , and the small firm Ward Keller, with two out of its five partners being female.
Gilbert + Tobin, the firm with the highest proportion of female partners (22 from a total partnership pool of 58) has announced today the addition of two part-time female partners, Ros O'Mally and Elizabeth Avery.
Gilbert + Tobin managing partner Danny Gilbert said the high number of female partners at the firm is a by-product of the firm's culture, rather than any specific affirmative action policies.
"A partner we brought across from another firm told me recently that the culture [at Gilbert + Tobin] is a lot more relaxed as compared to other firms," Gilbert told Lawyers Weekly.
"I think we are more freewheeling, informal, relaxed and perhaps less conservative when compared to other firms.
"You don't join Gilbert + Tobin if you want a safe harbour."
Holding Redlich is another firm with a relatively high proportion of female partners (2.25 male partners to every female). National managing partner Chris Lovell, like Danny Gilbert, said this is on the back of the firm's general ethos which incorporates a progressive outlook.
"We don't have any affirmative action type policies," Lovell said. "We look to provide flexible working arrangements where possible and give all lawyers, including women with children, the opportunity to be successful with the firm."
Holding Redlich also offer part-time partnership positions, with one partner working under such a basis in order to help care for her mother.
In order to retain their female talent, more firms are starting to offer the possibility of part-time partnership appointments.
"I think we will see more part-time partnership appointments at law firms in the future, as firms come to the realisation that they can't afford to lose experienced and senior lawyers that are also juggling family responsibilities," Herbert Geer partner Kate Mabilia said.
Mabilia was appointed as a part-time partner in January, combining three days in the office with one day working from home outside of standard working hours. "Firms invest a lot of time, money and resources training and developing their lawyers," she said. Progressive firms have implemented flexible workplace arrangements in order to accomodate those lawyers [female lawyers with family responsibilities] and ensure their experience is not lost."
"Many female lawyers are a valuable resource to the firm, bringing a strong rapport with clients and a solid client base."