New Acritas survey reveals a 27% global gender pay gap for equity partners 

The mean average pay for male equity partners was 27% higher than female equity partners among 828 Acritas Stars, according to Acritas’ latest global survey.

Acritas Stars are independently nominated as stand-out lawyers during Sharplegal, a broader research study of senior in-house counsel globally. In a new survey focused on helping law among law firms understand how they can better develop, engage, retain and attract stand-out talent, Acritas Stars were also asked to provide their overall compensation for the previous year.

Further analysis of the survey data revealed a slightly smaller gender pay gap when comparing median averages, with male equity partners paid 19% more than their female counterparts. According to Acritas, the larger (27%) gender pay gap between mean averages is a direct result of more ‘extreme’ pay for men, which pulls up the global mean average.

Lisa Hart Shepherd, CEO at Acritas, said “It is astonishing to see such a large gender pay gap at equity partner level. For women that have achieved equity partner status, they should be facing a more equal playing field but clearly this is not the case.”

Upon deeper investigation Acritas also uncovered considerations that do need reflection - factors which are likely contributing to a legitimate gap in gender pay for equity partners include practice area and years of experience. For example, the research shows a higher proportion of female equity partners specialize in labor and that labor equity partners are paid significantly less, regardless of their gender. Pay also increases with years of experience and Acritas’ data shows women equity partners have generally been partners for a shorter number of years. However, even normalizing for these factors, Acritas confirmed a pay gap still exists. A female equity partner working in the same country and practice area, made partner in the same year could expect to earn $125k less than her male counterpart.

In January, Acritas also revealed scientific evidence of gender bias in selection. Analysis of all the stand-out lawyer nominations showed male clients were half as likely to nominate a female Star lawyer. Even though clients rated male lead partner performance the same as female lead partner performance on every single performance attribute.

Lisa added “The gender bias Acritas observed in that external male counsel are less likely to pick a female lead partner will not be helping, as we know originations and/or new business are taken into account more than 80% of equity partners’ pay.

“By rebalancing and broadening the criteria used to determine compensation to allow for this bias, firms may be able to create fairer reward. In the longer term, law firms need to find a way to break through social networks, both inside of the firm and with clients, to enable female partners to get more equal exposure to clients.”

To purchase the full research findings and learn more about how Acritas can help your firm maximize its talent potential email


In January 2018, Acritas Star lawyers across the world were sent an online survey with a mixture of closed and open-ended questions. Acritas Star lawyers were identified by senior in-house counsel in Acritas’ global survey of senior in-house counsel between 2015 and 2017. Over 1750 Acritas Stars responded, from 51 countries. The survey responses from this survey have been analysed and are available to law firms who are keen to develop, engage, retain and attract stand-out talent.

Since 2015, Acritas has asked 4,300+ senior in-house counsel across the globe (during their wider Sharplegal survey) to nominate stand-out lawyers they had dealt with in the previous year and why.

Acritas StarsTM is a database of over 8,000 client-nominated, stand-out lawyers in private practice. The names have been volunteered to us by senior in-house counsel in large organizations, whom are interviewed on an ongoing basis about the legal market in Acritas’ global Sharplegal study.

Acritas StarsTM is fully searchable by geography, work type and individual lawyer qualities, it offers a wealth of valuable information for legal departments and provides an excellent starting point to start a trusted search for a stand-out lawyer.


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