Partner promotions amidst unprecedented conditions

In keeping with the tradition, UK law firms including the Magic Circle firms, announced new partner promotions for 2020 recently despite the industrywide uncertainty. A desire to retain the best talent has been cited as the driver behind. Although the current challenging conditions, the largest UK firms believe investing in people is the very core of the long-term success of firms. 

We have gathered 20 top UK-headquartered law firms’ partner promotion data and share the following analysis. The firms: Allen & Overy, Addleshaw Goddard, Ashurst, Bird & Bird, Clifford Chance, Clyde & Co, CMS, DLA Piper, Eversheds Sutherland, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Gowling, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Linklaters, Norton Rose Fulbright, Pinsent Masons, Reed Smith Richards Butler, Simmons & Simmons, Slaughter and May, and Stephenson Harwood.


Promoted Partner Numbers:

all partners


  • In 2020, most of the firms have promoted fewer lawyers to partnership (6% less) than they did in 2019 with the exception of Addleshaw Goddard, Eversheds Sutherland, Herbert Smith Freehills, Norton Rose Fulbright, Pinsent Masons, Slaughter and May.
  • Ashurst, Bird & Bird, and Simmons & Simmons remained the same number of partner promotions as 2019.
  • CMS, DLA Piper, and Norton Rose Fulbright made up 32% of a combined total of 511 new partners. DLA Piper promoted 67 lawyers to partner, the firm’s 2nd largest round in a decade. Also, DLA Piper promoted most partners compared to other 19 firms in 3 consecutive years.


  • Corporate, Disputes, Real Estate, TMT/IP, Restructuring/Insolvency, saw the largest intake of new partners with 348 promotions (68%) of 511 partner promotions.
  • Nearly half of all new partners (51%) are Corporate (Corporate, M&A, Private Equity, Capital Markets & Commercial) and Disputes (Arbitration, Dispute Resolution, Litigation) lawyers.   
  • Herbert Smith Freehills announced its first pro bono partner promotion, Brooke Massender.
  • The top five practices of the Magic Circle firms’ partner promotions: Corporate (53), Disputes (19), Banking/Finance (11), Restructuring/Insolvency (7), Real Estate (5).

Gender Balance:

  • Female lawyers made up 41% (208) of partners in the 2020 partner promotions (511).
  • For the Magic Circle firms, only 32% (36) are female lawyers in the 2020 partner promotions (114).
  • Addleshaw Goddard, Ashurst, and Clyde & Co promoted more female lawyers than males in the 2020 partner promotions.
  • Herbert Smith Freehills and Stephenson Harwood achieved the gender balance of the new partners.   


Global Distribution:



  • Global distribution of 20 firms’ partner promotions: UK (36%), Americas (23%), Europe (23%), Asia & the Middle East (9%), Australia (6%), and Africa (3%). 
  • Magic Circle new partner promotions globally: UK (42%), Europe (26%), Asia & the Middle East (18%), Americas (13%), and Australia (2%).
  • The remaining 15 firms: UK (35%), Americas (27%), Europe (22%), Australia (8%), Asia & the Middle East (6%), Africa (3%).
  • Norton Rose Fulbright is the only firm which had partnership promotions on all continents.  
  • Hong Kong saw the largest intake of new partners from Asia & the Middle East with 22 promotions out of 45 in total, followed by Singapore with 6, Beijing with 4, Shanghai with 2.
  • 11 new partners came from Japan and the Middle Eastern countries.

Analyst: Fai Choi (Marketing Manager, Hughes-Castell)


Published by Hughes Castell

Asia's Premier Firm for Global Legal, Compliance, Risk and Regulatory Executive Search

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