Stop the brain drain – changing the culture in law for the women in law

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June 24, 2022

Diversity and Inclusion in law is even more important than ever in 2022 and with the legal industry losing female talent year on year, we wanted to get the issues out in the open and look at what the legal industry needs to do about it.

To explore further, 2to3days and nexa law held a Diversity and Inclusion event in late Spring 2022. Hosted by TV presenter Angellica Bell, and co-hosted by our own Juliet Turnbull and Nigel Clark of Nexa Law. It featured a panel of talented and dynamic women, sharing their background and experiences in law and recruitment with us.

The event highlighted how Diversity and Inclusion is increasingly critical in law practices, but that change is still slow. There was a healthy exchange of compelling views, with data illustrating how the law culture still needs dramatic change, in spite of recent progress.

In her introduction Angellica Bell revealed how her dreams of becoming a lawyer were compromised by unwillingness on the part of her potential employers to engage with her. Though now a successful TV presenter, her experience resonated with our audience.

Our esteemed panel of experts included:

Dr Manjari Prashar – Diversity & Inclusion Consultant, Facilitator and Executive Coach (incl. Women In Leadership Programme at Linklaters)

Dana Denis-Smith – Founder and CEO of Obelisk Support & First 100 Years in Law Project

Bola Gibson – Head of Inclusion and CSR and Osborne Clarke

Andrea Mcllroy Rose – Partner, Head of Office, Belfast and SKY Lead – Pinsent Mason and Gender Representative on their Global Inclusion Board

Sally Brett – Head of Diversity and Inclusion, The Law Society

Jo Major – Founder of Diversity in Recruitment

We’ve chosen our highlights from the event so that you can quickly find topics that interest you most from the debate. We hope you enjoy the insights of our expert panel as much as we enjoyed kickstarting this important discussion.

You can watch them all here or view via the links below:

Why Diversity and Inclusion is Crucial in Business

Dr Manjari Prashar drew from her 20 years’ experience in the field, highlighting three crucial reasons for diversity and inclusion in the workplace:

  1. It’s in demand by the stakeholders – our current and future employees – and is scrutinised by the world along with senior leaders / partners.
  2. It’s required for retention and progression of the best talent. Unless we look from an inclusive place, we are failing ourselves.
  3. It’s impactful – research shows that inclusion means better team performance and decision making, which means arriving at more accurate solutions. It also means greater innovation and motivation, leading to more retention and fairer progression.

Dr Manjari called for commitment and accountability for change, and the ability to challenge current behaviours.

What Women Need to do to Change Things in Business

It’s a mindset change. Women need to collectively work together to call out for that change. They needn’t do it alone.

The First 100 Days Project

Dana Denis-Smith gave details of The First 100 Days Project, which creates a library of stories through role models for the current legal generation, informing and educating them on the role of women. It encourages women to talk about their life and work experiences.

The Future of Women in Law

We stand united in seeking true equality in pay, promotion and visibility.

The DI Progress Being Made

Bola Gibson endorsed many of the support packages now available in firms, particularly demystification, which explores in plain terms what partnership means and how women can be encouraged to ‘stick it out.’

Are Clients holding back flexibility?

We looked at client collaboration, and how demand for Diversity and Inclusion is crucial to how we work together, in balance with responsibilities outside the office.

Why is a 3-day working week so hard to achieve in law?

We examined how flexible working actually works, and how it remains a challenge with the resources currently available.

Why Role Models are Important

Andrea Mcllroy Rose told us that unconscious bias still exists in spite of cultural changes, and not always from ‘expected’ sources. The racial / ethnic balance is much harder to achieve, but we all have to take responsibility as role models.

Gender Equality Progress

Sally Brett revealed that while there are healthy numbers of women in Law through new entrants and Law graduates, inequality remains in the Gender Pay Gap.

Top Recruitment Tips – how to increase diversity and inclusion in Law

Jo Major held recruiters to account, calling on them to show more willingness in taking on women on a flexible basis.

Connecting the dots - in summary

We left the session greatly encouraged that Diversity and Inclusion is firmly on the map for Law firms, even though there is still work to be done. The challenge now is to get it into every recruitment situation, achieving practical change for women in the profession.

The Talent firms are looking to attract the need to speak up, call out the bunk that isn’t working and have the courage to fight for what they need and deserve.

It’s also about the men in our world, getting inclusivity and working together to achieve equality for all. The language that remains from the days of the man going to work in the 1950s needs to change, and parental responsibility for both sexes should sit at the centre of future policy.

We need to review how we talk about care in the UK, valuing work, paid work and care across the board. This is both care for children and care we may need to receive ourselves at a given time. It is a societal responsibility, and we need to shift our perceptions at a national level, not just an organisational one.

Senior Partners and other Leaders in Law firms need to actively exert their influence to ensure Diversity and Inclusion practices are set up, and that they, as Partners and Leaders, step up and lead by example.

Recruiters still need firmer ties with organisations and the talent pool, keeping that potential talent at the heart of everything. Talk about flexible working, be clear on the benefits. When working with recruitment partners, get the information that filters through to the working culture. If you’re talking about gender equality in your firm, bring it to the front. Put it on the advert. Watch the language too – don’t let it be too masculine and stop using meaningless jargon! Write the job description as if you are talking to the people you want to attract, and always include the salary.

It is crucial to help change the perspective of Clients so expectations can be clearly managed. Billed clients keep Law firms standing, but they often have lofty expectations. How we change those perspectives is key – while others demand Diversity and Inclusion are part of the pitch of a Law firm, and without that, Law firms will miss out. This needs to happen much more across the board, to be part of a clients’ culture.

Best Bits

Our audience, guests and hosts made the experience a lively and positive one. We welcome more of that! It was liberating to talk about diversity and inclusion so openly, and we have a responsibility to continue to be part of it. The will, desire and support are there – we just need to keep challenging and encouraging.

Visit www.2to3days.co.uk or email us at hello@2to3days.com to find out how you can reach the wealth of professional female talent making up the 2to3days community. Speak to us too about how you can be part of the movement for Diversity and Inclusion for women in Law and other professions. If you are a job seeker, please register here

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