Case study

Think, Act, Report: Shearman & Sterling

Improving our Female Senior Lawyer Retention Rates


Examination of our retention statistics led to a difficulty in pinpointing trends contributing to low retention rates at the senior level, as a variety of reasons were cited.

Issue to be resolved

Therefore to understand our employees better, a senior female Partner accompanied a HR team member to meet all female employees in the London office. Our intention was to gain a better understanding of their experience working in the office and what improvements could be made.

The feedback was positive, but highlighted some interesting findings:

  • The firm was doing a lot to support working mothers, but some issues experienced around work-life balance were also true for women without families and men. This wasn’t specific to the firm but the sector as a whole.

  • Female business development training and female client events would allow women to build their networks effectively.

Action taken

To address the feedback we rolled out the following programme over 6 months:

We increased business development training and with senior Partner support, rolled out two client female focussed events. To foster more networking opportunities, we also launched ‘Lean In’ circle events in the office.


The events and training had a fantastic turnout and we are keen to do more.

This programme has reenergised our women’s network within the office. They hold regular meetings and some interesting topics have been raised, such as introducing a sponsorship programme and piloting a working from home initiative.

Next Steps

This is just the beginning of our journey. We intend to continue engaging with women to understand and roll out key initiatives that can benefit the office. We will continue to monitor the impact of our initiatives to see an improvement on female retention rates in the long term.

Published 4 November 2014