Male Clients Pick Male Lawyers - Latest Acritas Star Lawyer Nominations Reveal Gender Bias In Selection

Acritas has spent the last three years building up more than 10,000 independent nominations of stand-out lawyers from law firm clients all over the world. More than 8,000 individual lawyers have been identified altogether from 4,300 clients.

Upon analyzing the results, Acritas stumbled across a surprising finding. Male clients were half as likely to nominate a female Star lawyer. And yet the research revealed that clients rated male lead partner performance the same as female lead partner performance on every single performance attribute.

According to Lisa Hart Shepherd, CEO of Acritas, “Only 15% of male-nominated Stars were women. This compared with 29% of female nominated Stars being women – almost twice the level. The effect of this bias is multiplied when you consider four out of five senior in-house counsel are male, it is therefore easy to see why female partners find it hard to get equity partnerships in law firms.”

The nominations are collected during a broader research study of senior in-house counsel, Acritas’ global Sharplegal study. The research has revealed the huge impact Stars make on a variety of performance metrics. Lisa commented, “Our latest research has revealed how stand-out lawyers create a significant uplift in client satisfaction, advocacy and share of wallet. We have also found a strong correlation between the level of PPP and the number of Stars at each firm.”

When Acritas looked closely at the reasons behind selection, the data showed the quality of expertise was the number one star quality for both genders in equal measure. However, female Stars on average had a higher number of qualities mentioned in their nominations. Female Stars were significantly more recognized for being responsive, approachable, professional and diligent.

The Acritas Stars database is compiled for its global panel of GCs to help them select new talent for their work around the world. As part of the launch of its 2018 Star lawyer survey, Acritas has published a new report in which they put a spotlight on some of the most nominated female talent in our industry, those lawyers who have received nominations from three or more individual clients - an exclusive group of just 13 women globally. Since 2015, just over 1,000 of the 8,000 nominations made by law firm clients in the Acritas global survey have been for female Star lawyers.

To help increase the levels of diversity at senior levels in law, Acritas have taken it upon themselves to campaign for more senior in-house counsel to work towards greater gender diversity by setting quotas at a minimum level of 1 in 3 female-led instructions. Acritas encourages in-house lawyers to use their free database* of client-nominated stand-out talent as a trusted source for reviewing individual lawyer qualities, beyond geography and practice area. 

Lisa Hart Shepherd, CEO of Acritas, commented “The gender gap at equity partner level will only see material change if clients use their buyer muscle to give female lawyers in private practice more power. Money still talks in law firms and those who bring in the business are the ones who rise to the top.”

Download the latest report here:


*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. 

Please contact Michelle Nesbitt-Burrell on T: +44 (0) 808 178 3020 | to find out more. 

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