Now I know what you are thinking, I can't possibly be an expert in this subject especially as i am a man and i don't actually work for a law firm. You would be right....hence I have summarised a very interesting conversation by two people; Donya Fredj and Allison Hosking who very much do know what they are talking about!
I do however know, having worked in larger organisations, that there has been, and still is, a major discrepancy when it comes to females in senior positions compared to their male counterparts. This has also been well documented in professional services and especially amongst law firms and this is where the conversation starts with Allison and Donya.
Allison argues that it is a deep lying issue in society that needs addressing as early as primary school to avoid gender stereotyping. The main issue with a lot of the top law firms is the fact that they actually have a very healthy female representation at lower levels such as associate (a recent FT article points to 50%) but this doesn't then follow through to the higher echelons of the larger firms with this figure then dropping down to 25% on average. Many firms have tried to address this and Allison points to the 30% club which is a cross-industry movement aimed at driving transformation with education and support ultimately resulting in more senior positions being filled by females.
Allison suggests that there are often three distinct reasons for the lack of women in senior positions in law firms and they are:
- A lack of female role models
- The right messaging isn't necessarily trickling down from the top
- Women don't always believe in themselves to fulfil a role whereas men are more likely to 'give it a go'
Donya and Allison both point to the importance of mentors and sponsors within an organisation and that, young female lawyers coming through, need both. The roles should be split into:
Mentors - should advise, support and give general encouragement and feedback.
Sponsors - should be more senior and should be advocates for their proteges coming through.
Reverse mentoring is something that Allison believes should be used more wisely to drive change from the top with the idea being that a senior fee earner is paired with a more junior one and they exchange ideas and experiences. This can often help bridge any generational gaps.
Interestingly the conversation then turns to the actual opportunity for women in law and this actually plays in favour of some of the female stereotypes when it comes to being more client-centric as a firm. Being more culturally aware, showing empathy, having more emotional intelligence and working in collaboration, Allison argues probably lends itself more stereotypically to women and actually during the recent lockdown months this is exactly what clients have needed. Men do however need to be on board.
Having listened with real interest I thought I would do a quick overview of the types of users who actually use our platform here at Passle based on gender.
Our tool is often used by professional service firms to empower lawyers and consultants of all levels to help build their brands and get their expertise across to key clients and prospects and the results across the 10 biggest law firms that have adopted Passle read: 44% females and 56% males.
Pretty good going all things being considered.
Women in Law & Legal Tech - Challenges and Opportunities Watch this video to hear about: 1. Allison's experience as a lawyer and what led her to the path of knowledge management and legal innovation 2. the impact of technology on the legal industry in terms of gender diversity 3. the effect of A.I. and its potential to create more space for women (and men) to focus on emotional intelligence and empathy 4. how to respond to the double bind dilemma 5. the role of mentorship and sponsorship in career development