Freshfields narrows pay gaps and boosts NQ pay

updated on 04 April 2022

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Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP published its 2021 pay gap report last week, revealing another positive year in the firm’s efforts to reduce its gender pay gap.

The magic circle firm’s mean gender pay gap, including partners, is 52.1% having decreased by nearly 3% on 2020’s figure of 54.5%. When the firm just considered its partners, the mean pay gap fell from 2.4% to -2.6%, favouring its women partners. The firm put the trend down to the “distribution of women and men across our partnership”.

The firm, which has been voluntarily reporting its ethnicity pay gap since 2018, also highlighted an improvement in this area. The ethnicity pay gap, including partners, fell from 59.5% (2020) to 50.5%, while the pay gap for partners fell from 30% to 28.2%. According to Freshfields, 19% of its partners and employees in the UK identified as part of a minority ethnic group in 2021. The firm explained that its ethnicity pay gap data comes from individuals who choose to share their diversity data with the firm.  

Among other initiatives, in 2021, Freshfields launched its Future Leaders Programme for Black and ethnic minority colleagues.

The pay gap report also features disability and LGBTQ+ data, which also saw marked improvements. Much like the ethnicity pay gap, the data demonstrates that there is still work to be done but it has fallen more than 12% from 65.4% in 2020 to 52.5% in 2021. According to Freshfields, 5% of its partners and employees in the UK disclosed their disabilities in 2021. Actions including disability allyship training and events were among others listed in the report.

In terms of the LGBTQ+ pay gap reporting, Freshfields emphasises that “the size of the disclosed population makes discerning any clear patterns difficult” with only 6% of its partners and employees identifying as LGBTQ+ in 2021. That said, the mean LGBTQ+ pay gap did fall more than 15% from 49.4% in 2020 to 33.4% in 2021. The firm continues to work on its LGTBQ+ inclusion by engaging colleagues in multiple pro bono efforts focused on LGBTQ+ rights, and ensuring its policy changes (eg, family-forming benefits) are inclusive, as well as extending its private medical cover for gender affirmation surgery.

In a joint statement, the firm said: “We are concentrating our efforts on activity that will move the dial: what will have the most positive impact for colleagues, clients and our communities. While we are keen to celebrate our progress, we also recognise that there is more to do.”

Meanwhile, the firm’s newly-qualified (NQ) lawyers in London will receive a 25% salary increase to £125,000 from May, taking over fellow magic circle firms Allen & Overy LLP and Linklaters LLP. Freshfields’ NQs outside London will also see their salaries increase from £55,600 to £65,600.

London managing partner Claire Wills said: “We believe that our package of financial and non-financial incentives, including paid qualification leave and career development opportunities, underpinned by effective work allocation and an inclusive working environment, offers a truly market-leading proposition.”