To mark International Women’s Day (8 March 2017), the first female Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss met lawyers from across the capital for an event designed to inspire the next generation of women leaders in law.
The event at Inner Temple was hosted by Women In Law London (WILL), the first ever grassroots network designed to provide talented female lawyers with contacts and mentoring to help them progress.
WILL Advisory Board member and General Counsel and Head of Financial Compliance for Roche UK, Funke Abimbola, led a Q&A with the Lord Chancellor before opening up questions for audience members.
During the evening the Lord Chancellor set out efforts to address barriers facing women in the legal service, following meetings with Magic Circle and Silver Circle firms, the Law Society and Bar Council on how we can widen the industry’s talent pool.
This includes work with the Lord Chief Justice and Lord Kakkar, Chair of the Judicial Appointments Committee, to improve diversity in the judiciary by opening up the High Court to “direct entry candidates”, meaning female solicitors and barristers without judicial experience can apply.
Commenting on the event and the need to improve diversity the Lord Chancellor, Elizabeth Truss said:
I am pleased to support the important work Women in Law does to champion women in the legal profession. Our brilliant legal system needs to reflect the diverse nature of our society, and a justice system which represents everyone improves public confidence and trust.
I want to see more women and ethnic minorities in the judiciary and in senior levels of law firms, but I’ve been clear this is not diversity for diversity’s sake. It’s about talent for talent’s sake.
We want the best and the brightest from every background. If you have the skills, the drive and the talent to reach the top of your profession then it’s vital we tap into this so we can continue to lead the world in the increasingly competitive legal services sector.
International Women’s Day is a reminder there is more to be done, but my message is clear - when you widen the pool of talent from which lawyers and judges are drawn, you make the justice system stronger.
Suzanne Szczetnikowicz, Chair Women In Law London added:
The huge uptake we’ve had in WILL membership since our launch in 2014 is a sign of the desire of female solicitors in London to see real change in the profession, to build their confidence levels and to network with like-minded individuals.
Greater diversity of workforce in a service sector business makes for, amongst other things, a more creative approach to problem-solving, flexibility and innovation in policy-making and a wider range of longer-lasting client relationships.
We want to continue to encourage and empower our members individually as well as to drive change at a firm and professional level. Firms and businesses need to ensure that diversity and inclusion becomes a true core value implemented at all levels. They should maintain a dialogue with their women and make sure that they are not, even unconsciously, opting women out.
The WILL mantra is to promote and engage the next generation of women leaders in law. A large part of this is about moving the needle so that the majority of entrants to the solicitor profession being female for the past 20 years is much more closely reflected in the proportions at the highest levels.
- Launched in 2014, Women In Law London (WILL) is a network with over 2,400 members and senior legal champions, representing both private practice and in-house lawyers at over 350 different firms and companies. Its ambition is to promote and engage the next generation of women leaders in law.
- The organisation was masterminded by five London lawyers, Sascha Grimm, Cooley, Suzanne Szczetnikowicz, Milbank, Sophie Bragg, Mishcon de Reya, Ellen Hughes-Jones of Locke Lord and Fatema Orjela, Sidley Austin, to improve the retention of female talent in the profession and help identify barriers to senior partnership.
- Founded as a network by associates for associates, WILL is supported by an Advisory Panel of senior leaders and partners. For more information on the organisation see: http://www.womeninlawlondon.com/home.html / @WomenInLawLon
- For more information on our work to improve the promotion of talent in the legal industry see: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/women-in-the-legal-industry
- For more information on International Women’s Day see: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/