This browser is not actively supported anymore. For the best passle experience, we strongly recommend you upgrade your browser.
hero image of people sitting with documents near table


| 35 minutes read

CMO Series REPRESENTS: Embracing Equity - Holding your own and finding joy in legal marketing

In the final part of CMO Series REPRESENTS: Embracing Equity program, leading female voices across the legal marketing industry discuss the need for women to back themselves and be their own advocates to build a successful career in the profession. 

Our brilliant group of guests reflect on their experiences and share their personal perspectives, encouraging women to find joy in their careers and take ownership of forging their own paths in the industry in order to strike a fulfilling work-life balance. 

We have the honour of hearing personal stories and perspectives from Charlotte Green, Head of Clients and Markets at Gowling WLG, Trish Lilley, Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer at Thompson Coburn, Elinor Gilles-Jones, Head of Business Development and Events at Wrigleys Solicitors, Sophie Hudson, Head of Marketing and Business Development at Sherrards Solicitors, Jane Biddell, Marketing and Business Development Director at Fox Williams, JeanMarie Campbell, Head of Client Development for North America for Baker McKenzie, Heather Morse, Chief Business Development Officer McGlinchey Stafford, Catherine Knock, Head of Marketing & Communications at Hassans, Siobhan Moret, Marketing Director at Saffery Champness, Tania D’Souza Culora, Founding Partner at Seastone IP and Candice de Bruin, Head of Business and Practice Development at Werksmans Attorneys.


Charlie: Welcome to CMO Series REPRESENTS. I'm Charlie and in this final part of our Embracing Equity programme, leading female voices across the legal marketing industry, discuss the need for women to back themselves and be their own advocates to build a successful career in the profession.

This formidable group of guests reflect on their experience and share their personal perspectives, encouraging women to find joy in their careers and take ownership of forging their own paths in order to strike a fulfilling work-life balance.

Our first guest today shares her personal experiences and discusses the importance of tackling biases in the industry. We welcome Charlotte Green, Head of Clients and Markets at Gowling WLG.

Charlotte: My experiences of being a woman in professional services marketing have largely been positive. I think part of that is as I've got older, I think that makes life actually in some respects a lot easier. But I do think the tide has changed from being kind of more service driven all the time through to the dynamic between business development and the fear as being more of an adult-to-adult conversation. It's a very heavily female-populated part of professional services. And I think if it, you know, it can fall foul of inherent biases. I definitely think things are going in the right direction. 

I remember when I started, people used to talk about sending a pretty girl off to get client feedback and how the clients appreciated that which obviously was incredibly distasteful to me at the time. I don't hear that anymore, which I'm really pleased about. And that's sort of a, you know, a definitely one positive. We're also, I think seeing more balance, more men coming into it. What still continues to dismay me is that we see more men or a greater proportion of men at those senior levels, that sort of CMO and BD Director and no disrespect to my sort of esteemed peers because they're excellent and thoroughly deserving. But there is still a disproportion of men that make it up to that senior level compared with women.

I think law firms can embrace equity and embed it in their cultures through a number of ways. I think we need to dismantle this sort of above stairs below stairs mentality between business services and the fee earners and particularly the partners. I think everybody should recognise that we all have actually a really, really important role to play in the success of our business and our clients' success, and our external clients' success. Whilst, of course, we do need to retain that service ethic, which is so important. The other part is, I think changing the makeup of our teams right across professional services within marketing and business development in particular, we need I think to look at perhaps the different socioeconomic backgrounds of the people that we bring in and certainly over the years, some of the very best people I've worked with have not been those with an Oxbridge or Russell group background or that sort of thing. I've had to dismantle some of my own biases in that direction. And I'm really glad that they have been dismantled because I realize now that I'm missing out on a tremendous wealth of talent in areas that once for me would not have been an obvious place to look. So I think we do all have a really strong responsibility to increase the diversity and equity within our teams. And I think we also need to do that within the cultures of our firms as well.

My advice for women entering the industry is to be yourself. Keep your service ethic going because ultimately, in some respects, we are here, and I think we've got to recognise that we are here to facilitate the success, not just of ourselves and our teams, but of others within the business and externally our clients as well. So we have to keep that front of mind. Be positive, be curious, enjoy talking to people. One of the things certainly within legal environment that really struck me when I first joined um the first law firm I ever worked for was how much lawyers work better in a face-to-face conversational environment than by email. And I do think I see too many people hiding behind email these days, you know, having face-to-face conversations, turning it up into the office and introducing yourself to people is completely and utterly essential visibility. I know it is to some degree really important. You can definitely, definitely do that over Zoom. You can definitely do that over the phone. You can even do it to a degree by email but nothing beats making a point of,if you are in the office,go and introduce yourself, go and say hello. So people know who that person behind the email is and enjoy it and enjoy the repartee. Enjoy the mental stimulation with the lawyers and with your colleagues.

Charlie:  Unconscious bias affects us all. And our next guest is here to discuss her approach to removing subjectivity to create an equitable environment and shares her guidance for women entering the industry. We welcome Trish Lilley, Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer at Thompson Coburn.

Trish:  I've had a pretty positive experience overall, I'm certainly cognisant of the fact that some women haven't had the same experience and that everybody experiences things through their own filter. Right? I mean, I think that for me having been the first female born in my family in two generations, having grown up with nine uncles and two brothers, that certainly informs how I deal with everyone across the board. And I think that's been helpful in a professional services environment because there is a bit of a bias. It's certainly been a male-dominated field. I've had people over the years say, “Does it feel weird to be the only woman in the room?” And I'm like, “You know what? I don't, I didn't even notice because I don't operate via my gender” I operate by how I think I should make an argument or put forth a proposal or interact with other individuals. I think it definitely that then governs my compartment and probably has something to do with how people react to me. I think that to embrace equity law firms should um you need to inject objectivity, right?

Because we've all learned or I hope we've learned um over the past several decades, perhaps more over the past couple of years, just how many biases we carry in our thinking. So to really embrace equity and inclusion, I think that we need to take personality out of it. We need to remove as much subjectivity as we can. And I do that in my own way. When I'm looking at staffing uh schemes or how I'm going to order or organise a department, something like that, remove the names. Look at the data, take the objective evidence that you have at your disposal and then create functions around that, create processes and solve problems around that. So look at how many women you have in leadership roles. Look at your salary differentials, right? Is there a gender issue? Is there a racial bias that you're starting to see all of those things can be addressed and you can change your culture to address them. But I think the best way to, I guess I'm kind of focused on identifying first off the places where you're not being inclusive and then ways to address the inclusivity, and, make yourself more inclusive. It's easier to solve for the problem if you're identifying it the right way.

What I would say to folks coming into professional services, women coming into professional services, I do give some standard advice and that is never to be the Girl Friday. You know, if you are younger, even if you're not younger, but you look younger, you need to hold your own, you need to create some presence around yourself. And so if a phone rings or somebody says, why why aren't there any diet cokes in here or if there is any administrative issue that needs to be dealt with? I would not be the one to solve that problem. Don't get up from the table if a partner comes in and there are no seats at the table. That's unfortunate the partner came in late to the meeting. You have a seat at the table.

Charlie: Elinor Gilles-Jones, Head of Business Development and Events at Wrigley Solicitors joins us to share her experiences as a female leader in professional services marketing and how finding balance in her team has been key to success.

Elinor: So my experience as a woman in professional services marketing is that actually women don't always champion other women. In a previous firm, I worked at my development wasn't nurtured and there was very little communication or support. But in hindsight, I feel like maybe that's because my colleague at the time was so busy having to run her own race that she just didn't really have the capacity to be my advocate as well. But that's a real difference from where I am now. What I found is professional services marketing is often quite a female-led workplace. And that's very much the case where I am now. I have tried to introduce a bit of a balance into my team through recruitment as I've also found that just one gender can be a bit unbalanced. So I found that having only females in a team, there's a sense of becoming friends beyond colleagues, which is great, it's very supportive and it makes a nice atmosphere, however, it can make giving constructive feedback really quite difficult. I've also found that realistically, females when I appraise them or other women when I appraise them are so hard on themselves, they'll often focus on one element of the job that they've missed or they feel they haven't done as well as they could have done. And they're really very hard on themselves. Whereas the males, I do appraisals for often seem much happier to push for promotions earlier or pay rises or really ahead of the development in their work. So that's a difference I found between men and women. I've found that I've had to ensure I've used the correct marketing terminology or express my opinion through research to back it up. And what I'm saying isn't always taken as a given. I've really had to prove that there is a theory, education and training behind my suggestions and my recommended strategy. Now that may be because of my age as well. I'm fairly young for my position. But I've found I've really had to remain professional yet approachable in, in the right way, to kind of come across as I've wanted to as a female in the workplace.

So I think law firms can embrace equity and embed that in their culture really by leading by example. So my current firm lives the values that they state. So the board is vast majority female, the equity is majority female and actually the whole firm is 75% female. So what was nice to see in this firm is that those in leadership roles don't show women working all hours to prove themselves, you know, they do what's required of them. But then they talk about their weekends and their evenings without the embarrassment that it wasn't filled with work.

They're not trying to prove that they're working at all hours to get, you know, where they need to be if that work-life balance is talked about and is openly embraced. And actually Wrigley's have promoted two women to the partnership whilst they're on maternity leave. And while, you know, women or, or parents are out of the workplace, they're never left out of legal directory submissions, for example, they're not kind of dead to the firm whilst they're on maternity, they're, you know, they're still within discussions and, and still within strategic decisions. And I think actually that's because the level of respect colleagues show for each other is really high on the list of expected behaviours.

My advice for women entering the industry is probably something that's commonly said and that's fundamental, my manager at the moment is a huge advocate of my development and helping me work out how I need to get ahead in a firm and build those relationships. But also I think it's about almost testing yourself by putting an opinion across and not feeling afraid to speak up in a meeting. Because actually your opinion might be better received than you think it will be. I would advise my younger self to have the confidence that you can justify your point if you're questioned. And also if you are being questioned, it's not a personal thing, you know, partners or the board or decision-makers, they need to ask the questions that need to have the answers. You know, they need to have looked at a solution or a problem from every angle. So it's not that they're doubting what you're saying, but they're double checking their understanding and then almost double checking that they know how to then put that idea across to somebody else in the right way. So don't feel afraid to put your opinions or your ideas out there.

Charlie: Sophie Hudson, Head of Marketing and Business Development at Sherrards Solicitors shares the mix of experiences she has encountered in the industry and encourages women to set boundaries in their roles.

Sophie: My experience as a woman in professional services marketing. I've had a few negatives that I wanted to share, first of all. So I think a lot of uh professional service firms struggle to understand what actually marketing is. Especially as a junior marketeer. So you can get shoehorned into various roles that need doing often admin heavy uh and nothing to do with marketing. So and on top of that, I feel that women um more so than men are given responsibilities in offices for the care aspects of office life. So things like remembering birthdays or getting people together for socials, which are lovely things to do. But I think it's also a negative of being a woman in professional services marketing um as it's all time away from our valuable work, and it's kind of no part of our role and shouldn't be really. It's a difficult thing to kind of come up against. But I think if that resonates with you, then you've got to make sure it's a shared chore or something that just doesn't fall across marketing or just one gender.  

Good experiences as a woman in professional services marketing for me is that teamwork has been absolutely pivotal to our successes. And the women in my team are amazing. I currently manage five people and they're all women, they're all absolutely amazing. I really struggle to do my work without them. And together we do a really good job. Similarly, working across departments closely with HR for example, has been crucial to the success of the culture at Sherrards and internal marketing initiatives.

So recently, we've embedded the firm's values and objectives. We've done staff listening programs together and with our knowledge shared. Myself and Jo Perry, who's the Head of Marketing have taken the firm to new heights. So she's a female partner, she's really empowered me and shown me that feminine qualities, you know, empathy, for example, are not a weakness and actually bring much-needed balance to traditionally male environments.

Law firms can embrace equity um and embed that in their culture by having women in their partnerships and having them at the table at high levels in all areas across the board. So heads of departments in finance, IT, everything and law firms really need to empower these women to do the best they can do and bring other women up with them. Traditionally law firms are male, pale and stale. And they really need to see the benefits of bringing a diversity of thought and diversity in all forms. And they're not going to benefit until they do that. And there's those people are at the table.

My advice for women entering the industry is to set boundaries because no one else is going to do that for you. If you find yourself being the note-taker in a room full of men for no other reason than you feel like you should or no one else is. It's imperative that you don't let that be you. The sooner you set those boundaries, the sooner you'll get more done. And that's to the benefit of the firm as well as you and your development.

Charlie: How we socialised at a young age impacts how we develop as adults. Jane Biddell, Marketing and Business Development Director at Fox Williams reflects on this and discusses the importance of developing resilience for success in the profession.

Jane: My experience as a woman in professional services marketing has been quite lengthy. I moved quite early in my career into professional services at a time when it was a pretty new discipline. And looking back on it, it was clearly the responsibility of all those involved in our new roles to enhance the reputation of our organisation and create business growth. And that in a sense has led to the development, or those early steps led to the development of the vast discipline that we're all now part of. And again, reflecting it's really positive to see how well established that discipline has become with places at the board and on EXCOs and very much a seat at the table. And I'd say that while it's still the case that women aren't in the majority of leadership positions in professional service firms, there are now so many more of us with supportive peers and networks. And from my perspective in BD and marketing had the opportunity to lead strategic change.

It brings me to reflect on my recent reading of Mary Ann Sieghart's book, The Authority Gap published a year or so ago, which provides a fantastic perspective on the exclusions and biases that are regularly evident even for really senior and internationally recognised women, for example, such as Christine Lagarde and Cheri Blair. And I was struck by her point that for example, in primary school, boys are more encouraged to speak up than girls are and that this habit, therefore, continues into the workplace. Just this week, I and a number of senior colleagues had um a diversity and inclusion training session which reminded us that we are absolutely role models for the colleagues that we lead for me in business services and of course across our firm. And it made me reflect on the fact that creating a more inclusive environment is absolutely critical for us. And as I come to work every morning, I'm so struck by the diversity of people who are around me on the tube in London. And as I walk up the road to Finsbury Square, and it's absolutely critical that for my team and for the clients of our firm, that outside reality is reflected inside our firm.

My key thing would be to say, enjoy what you do and be positive. The professional services environment is absolutely all about people. Don't at any point in your career, be afraid to ask questions and absolutely make a point of learning from what you hear. Another point to bear in mind is it's that you need to be resilient because as you progress, there will be setbacks and not everything is set out and easy, according to the plan that might have been made at the beginning. And in marketing and BD roles, it's massively important that we're alert to and thinking about what's happening in the outside world. We have the remit to reflect what our clients are thinking about. So what's happening out in the outside world is impacting our clients right now and in a few years time. And that's not always what our professional colleagues are thinking about in the course of their everyday transactions with clients.

Charlie: The first step to embracing equity is to recognize areas for improvement and create a plan for action. JeanMarie Campbell, Head of Client Development for North America at Baker Mackenzie, joins the conversation to share her thoughts and encourages women to stand their ground and find their passion.

JeanMarie: My experience as a woman in professional services marketing has been an interesting one. I mean, as you know, business development and marketing in law firms is primarily comprised of women from my experience and that in itself is an interesting journey really, for me coming from the legal world of practicing law where men really are the majority. I have found legal marketing to be a place where women flourish, right? I really believe women are creative and flexible. Women are relationship-oriented and women are hardworking and efficient, really, all the things that I admire and strive to be. And I have found men who are leaders in law firms to really value these attributes. I do have an example, you know, a current example of something that I think is good, of what I hope firms continue to do. My current boss, Colin Murray, who's the CEO of North America, is a true advocate of women and equity and clearly, he's a white privileged man, right? But he really walks the walk, talks the talk. He has given me a platform personally at the firm to be visible, to share my views. He's given me a seat at the table with firm leadership and I have seen his efforts to elevate women across the firm, women partners, women business professionals alike, and it's really leaders like him who I think can make a difference and change cultures in law firms.

Well, I think law firms in order to embrace equity and embed that in their culture, I think the first thing they really have to do is acknowledge where they're falling short. And I think that's a hard thing to do, right? It's hard to acknowledge faults. But if law firms can really acknowledge where they need to improve. I think they'll start to embrace equity and embed that in their culture. Second, I think firms have to commit to taking action. It's one thing to acknowledge where they may not be perfect or where they can improve, but they have to come up with a commitment to action and then clearly to set a plan for that action.

It's great to talk about it. But is there a plan, is there accountability? Are there measurements, right? Is there accountability to leadership to the partners to each other?

And so another example from Baker McKenzie, where I feel like they have done a great job in embracing equity and embedding that in their culture is uh to set a plan to increase the number of women and minorities in leadership. That is part of the platform of our CEO and he is really committed to that um that accountability that intentional focus and you know, even our numbers when we look at that every year and there are leadership positions available. That's the first thing he does. And I know because I'm in that room. And I just find that really just a place that I want to work at that has that mindset.

So my advice for women entering professional services or marketing or the industry is I say, be bold, take risks, be curious, always, always keep learning. I think those are so important. And something that a former boss of mine, Wendy Bernero, someone who is a mentor of mine, she has always said to me, is not only always keep learning, but really focus on being respected and standing your ground. I think sometimes women like to be liked. And in many ways, the respect aspect is so much more important than being liked. So that's something personally I've had to work on. Being confident, you know, I say to my team, I had dinner with a colleague last night, a junior colleague and I said, “You know, we know things, the lawyers don't and they know things we don't, we need to be confident in what we bring to the table.” 

And then I think the most important advice I would have for women entering the industry, particularly junior women. You know, I have a daughter graduating from college and she's looking to get into marketing and PR, not in the legal world, but we always talk about finding joy and finding things that you have passion for because you're usually good at that, right? And there are always things in a job you don't like or but you have to make sure it's maybe the 20% of the job. But I really feel find joy in what you do and you will be good at what you do.

Charlie: Heather Morse, Chief Business Development Officer at McGlinchey Stafford, talks about taking ownership of your career path and how she has tailored her journey to find balance in her personal and work life.

Heather: For me, I've been doing this for about 25 years working in the legal industry in the marketing field or in the marketing department and law firms across the country. And, you know, really, for me, it has just been an incredible career and when I think about it, you know, my experiences as a woman, you know, the marketing industry itself is a very female-dominated field. So for me, there's been a lot of opportunity for mentorship and there have been women who have really helped me, you know, along my career. And as I've started to forge my way through, rising, you know, from marketing manager, assistant manager at my first law firm to being the Chief Business Development Officer of a midsized law firm. So they've just been an incredible mentorship from people along the way. So I think that's probably the thing that, you know, I really focus in on when I think about my experience and professional services is the ability to be mentored and have people who've really taken an interest in my career and helped me to come along and have not been shy to point out where I'm being a bit. You know, should we say, you know, where I needed to improve some of the things that were going on with me and just maybe “slow things down” and, you know, “you might want to say it this way instead of that way”. So I think that's been, you know, really incredible for me.

The other thing that I think that for a lot of women I really do try to express this is that there's not just one size of a law firm, there are lots of different law firms' ways of being involved in legal marketing that, you know, allow you to really explore your career. And for those of us who do, you know, have chosen to have children, to have families. You know what it has been, I've been able to tailor my career to my family so that, you know, when I was single and before I had children, you know, worked in firms that had a much more national presence and I was travelling a lot. And then when my children came along, I was able to go to a boutique law firm in my community where I did not have to travel. And then as my kids started to get older, you know, I was able to work in a law firm that was a little bit bigger, but the partners in the firm, we were around the same age, you know, so many of us would be running out of the office to go to a girl scout meeting or, you know, to go get coach the kids, you know, baseball team. So it was, you know, very, family-oriented, you know, for, you know, that time in my life.

It's really interesting and this is a question when it comes to equity and law firms that we've been challenged with for many years, it's not just hiring a woman or, you know, hiring someone who's a person of colour to come into a firm, but making sure that they get the opportunities. And, you know, one of the things that we can do is through, you know, the billing process is making sure that our matters, you know, that we are stopping them, you know, with DEI, you know, goals in place and that's something that we're doing in our firm and our clients are also pushing us on it. We actually do have to send in diversity reports and show how many hours are being, you know, worked by diverse attorneys. We also need to show, you know, when it comes to the books of business, like who is actually getting the origination credit. So we are being told by our clients how we can measure this and rather than fight it, you know, law firms really need to embrace it and to make sure that we're seeing that.

So, you know, just by way of an example and this is just in general talking, not so much, where equity is concerned, but, you know, we get monthly reports and we were looking at a monthly report and one thing that became very clear in one of our departments is that the closer somebody sits to the partner, the more work they have, you know, and which is part of human nature. But we actually saw that in a report and we're able to talk to the practice group leaders and the partners to say, “Hey, you know, you've got attorneys like all across the country, you know, you need to be able to reach out to them and make sure that they're on your report.” So once again, it's taking the data that we currently have in the firm, letting it tell us the story of what's going on and then how do we act upon that? And so, you know, it's non judgmental and it's something that's part of human nature, but we really do go go to that person who is within our sight line to hand them the work. So how does that impact, you know, attorneys who might be working from home a few days a week or how is that impacting an attorney that is working remotely? Well, we let the data, you know, identify where we're not doing a great job or where we have room for improvement. And then we act upon that the following month. 

This is my professional advice for anybody at any time. And that is, you have to be your own advocate. You know, going back to probably one of my first jobs, you know, there was a position open. I really wanted it. My boss told me, Heather you’d do a great job and people will notice you then he ran off to the Peace Corps and the job went to somebody completely different outside the firm. And I was devastated because I didn't even get a chance to interview for this role. And I was talking to the president of the company and his response to me was “Heather, I didn't even know you wanted it” and it just clicked in me, and that was really early in my career before I got into legal marketing, that I have to be my own advocate. And so I really push to, you know, market yourself to take credit for the work that you do.

Charlie: Our next guest reflects on the positive role models she has had throughout her career, as well as the poor practices she has experienced and why women should be assertive and have conviction in their ideas. We welcome Catherine Knock Head of Marketing and Communications at Hassan's.

Catherine: Literally had the most amazing role model since, since I've been in law firm marketing now for I was trying to add up earlier, I think about 24 years, which is quite frightening back then. Still now, really marketing and BD is a hot bed for strong women.

So when I was starting out, I learned from a lady called Kate Kane at Burges Salmon who was amazing and I moved on through, down to London to Weil Gotshal with Fiona Spears and then Clare Wright, who was at DAC Beachcroft. So I've got some really, really great role models as examples. And I suppose the reality is there's bad bosses, men and females everywhere, but often they don't last that long. But the ones I was with, I've learned loads from. So I had a really good start out, I think in professional services. But of course, that doesn't mean there isn't gender bias. And I suppose I have, I have suffered it in pockets, railroading, bulldozing, downright dismissiveness, low-level harassment, looking back on it, was definitely prevalent. I don't try, I don't take it as, as a female issue. It's a human issue.

So it's much more if I'm getting a bad vibe from a male counterpart, so don't just jump to the fact that it's because I'm obviously I'm female, it's potentially more the fact that he's potentially a bit threatened by me or my, the way I manage myself or assert myself is a bit, maybe a little bit too aggressive for his liking or which is, is definitely an unconscious bias, but I try to use it to empower me as opposed to back off. It sounds really simple but keep visible.

We all suffer imposter syndrome at times but try not to hide behind your own insecurities or allow yourself to be shouted down. It's really human nature to retreat when there's a difficult situation to face. But if you face it head-on with assertion and that's one thing assertive women are not bossy, that's a real bug bear of mine. Face it with assertion and you'll gain respect even if your idea is rejected or whatever happens in the outcome by having stood your ground, being tenacious with conviction, then you're gaining respect day on day.

Charlie: Siobhan Moret, Marketing Director at Saffery Champness discusses finding balance between her career and parenthood and urges women to find joy in their roles for a successful career in legal marketing.

Siobhan: First of all, I would say that I haven't come across that many female business developers. There's an awful lot of customer-facing women in our role so there's many women in the organisation, but in terms of actual business development, not as many. However, when I have come across women who are business developing like myself. I'm always pleasantly surprised, especially when I see them in action with clients, women in general, in my view, are more empathetic and better at listening, which is perfect for the type of client work that I'm doing, which is trust work. So you're finding time for clients to express themselves to really understand uh what their pain points are and not just talking to them in a one-way dialogue about what the services of the client of the company are. So yeah, for me, women are caregivers and so empathy and listening to clients is something that they do particularly well. 

There are two things that I would probably recommend. The first of all is to make it easy. With working from home practices, you know, this has become a lot easier for everyone these days to manage their home life and their work life. For me, it was pivotal when my work relaxed the working processes to allow me to work from home and to be a bit more flexible in my working day, it meant that as a mum, with a full-time job um and a child at home that I could manage my working life, I could be a lot less stressed, much happier at home and much happier at work and actually just way more effective in both areas of my life, taking the pressure off, made a massive difference to me.

Secondly, I would say just do the thing. So if equity and equality in the workplace means that, you know, if you're talking about being equal workplace, yet there are only one or two women in your top management suite, then, you know, do the work. You know, I think that it's a cop out for companies who haven't equalized the top management positions to say that, you know, we base it on merit. Well, actually half of the world is female. And if you're saying that you can't find in that, in that sub-section, people, women who could do the job particularly well, then I think that you're mistaken. So to do the job, employ the people in the top end. I think that for everyone really, I think this piece of advice would, would work, but in particular for women, I think to be confident to find out what you are good at and what you enjoy and gravitate towards that in your working life, work becomes so much more pleasurable. You are so much more successful when you find something that you can really resonate with that, it doesn't feel like work when you're doing it. I think that is the key message for anyone who wants to enjoy their life is make sure that you find a thing that you enjoy doing, it doesn't feel like work. So that when you wake up in the morning, Actually, it's a pleasure to go in.

Charlie: A structured approach for new parents transitioning back into their roles can be key to creating an equitable workplace. Tania D’Souza Culora, a founding Partner at Seastone IP, joins us to share her thoughts on how firms can better support working mothers.

Tania: I knew when I began my career in law that while many women as men enter the profession, far fewer women ultimately made partners, than men. So I expected some headwinds. At the time, most of the women partners I encountered either didn't have children or rarely left the office in time to make bedtime. I'd worked hard to secure a job at a reputable firm. But, it was a ‘but’ rather than an ‘and’, I also wanted to have a family with whom I could spend time. So I decided that if my legal career was to endure, I'd have to select my speciality accordingly. Much as I enjoyed corporate transactional M&A type work given that it often meant frequent all-nighters, I chose IP, which thankfully I thoroughly enjoy from what I've seen over the years. A common reason women exit law is that it can be tricky to balance with family life. So I'll focus the remainder of my comments around that aspect.

You asked if there were examples of good practices I can share and one I benefited from was a structured approach with the transition back into work following parental leave. In addition to my firm at the time, introducing working from home for new parents for part of the week some 16 years ago now. The firm also ensured I had a steady stream of quality work upon my return, In addition to having a keeping-in-touch program over the course of the parental leave, offering the option of attending meetings and social events, with clients and colleagues. All of which help just smooth that process. We know that working in professional services generally necessitates longer work days, which for working parents can often mean even longer days. So, you know, I found after three or four days a week when I left work around 5.30 or 6pm to make bedtime, I was hopping on my laptop again around 8.30 or 9pm and working until half 11 or midnight to keep on top of my workload. It was a sacrifice I was willing to accept at the time being the sole breadwinner. But you know, today, I think while we do have a way to go, most firms are more willing to accommodate flexible working or part-time arrangements at this particular phase of women's lives, I do know that it's about being intentional, about equity law firms need to be intentional about supporting women in the profession. Accommodations will vary with each firm, but I offer two things to consider first more upfront communication, it would be really helpful if firms communicated frankly to lawyers at the time, if they're joining a firm with respect to general expectations for partner track and potential future accommodations and limitations. So women don't have to try and work these out at a later stage. Part-time arrangements may be possible at some firms and in some specialities and not in others. The same with job share arrangements. Many women I know left law after having children due to a lack of support when they return to work, they were often left to sink or swim, which especially for junior women lawyers was very daunting.

There's also the challenge of finding that you're out of step with contemporaries in the same year of school. So my second suggestion would be to introduce formal programs and support for returning mothers or women transitioning into new part-time arrangements. The idea that women can have it all may be a little unrealistic in the legal profession. Perhaps there should be a qualification, women can have it all if adequately supported or women can have it all, just not all at the same time. And the system in which we live is not structured to support women or mothers, in particular, to succeed for working mothers, especially I would suggest adopting a more long-term view of your career. You might find it frustrating that it may take longer to make a partner than others in your year of call who didn't take parental leave but some years down the line, you know, exactly when you made partner won't really matter, be clear on what your priorities are personally. Maybe it's maxing on your hours and bonus each year. Maybe it's time with your family. Whatever it may be, for me, family was a priority. So when I had to choose between that and work commitments, advantages to my career, those choices sat a little better with me, maybe things will get better as more men take parental leave. So I think in sum, if you want to stay the course as a woman in law, you may need to make some concessions or advance at a slower pace than you might like. But if you adopt a longer-term view and any concessions you do make are in line with what really matters to you, then you will already be enjoying success. Nobody went to their deathbed, wishing they had billed more hours.

Charlie: Candice de Bruin, Head of Business and Practice Development at Werksmans Attorneys, discusses the role of firms in embracing equity and advises women in the profession to be their own ambassadors.

Candice: My experience as a woman and professional services has been quite profound actually. It's spanned decades, actually two decades and it's actually, I've been fortunate enough to have worked in London, New York and now South Africa. But the experience as a whole has really been a period of periods of learning and learning and relearning. And I think it's just because as this profession picks up the pace and picks up speed and gets attention across with the lawyers and the other people that we service. I think there are more and more demands on our time. So it really has been a case of trying to remain forward facing. Actually, I think that's key for us in our profession. And to keep our mind on what remains distinctive for us as consultants to lawyers etc in this profession. But yeah, on the whole, I think it's, I think it's been quite a promising and quite a fulfilling experience. I really enjoyed it.

I suppose if there's one thing that I've taken away from it is that because we are always juggling so many things, this is really not a sprint, you know, the career in BD and professional services is not a sprint at all. It really is like a triathlon, you know, you've got to keep transitioning at every single junction. And I think that's the way that someone in my role, particularly a woman is going to be remaining successful, how a law firm can embrace equity and embed that in its culture. I think it's very simply a case of not just paying lip service to it. I think if you are committing to advancing a particular stakeholder group. I think you really have to put some uh measures and some programs in place and really stick to it, really walk the talk particularly when it comes to diversity programs. I think also if I think back to even this current law firm Werksmans that I'm at, I think it's really key that you also are leading by example.

Werksmans has been quite deliberate about putting women into leadership positions across various forums, whether it's ExCo or BuzzCo, which are various forums that we sort of have a stake in as BD and just making sure that women's interests are noted as part of the wider programs. And I've got to say on the whole, they've been pretty successful and I think also they've encouraged feedback. So where we feel we need to self-correct we do so.

My advice for women entering the industry is to really back yourself. I see it frequently when as a BD team, we go into meetings with our ExCo or other leaders. And I see a lot of my colleagues shy away, but I think you really have to back yourself and take a seat at the table to really play a part in the business. And certainly, if you don't know something, it's just to ask questions around it. So you're better informed. So I think to be successful, you have to back yourself. You really have to be your own ambassador. And I think it's great if you actually find someone within the business who can also possibly mentor you or give you some guidance as to how things can be done better or give you some feedback on how you could have done to manage something differently. I really do feel that as women in this profession, we need to be better at backing ourselves being our ambassadors and just really take a seat at the table.

Charlie: Thank you to all of our guests for sharing their personal insights, their collective voices have helped highlight the progress being made and the opportunities for firms to embrace equity and create a culture of inclusivity. And thank you for listening.

Stay tuned for our next episode where we explore colour, culture and leadership with Diana Lauritson, Senior Business Development Manager at Hogan Lovells.

You can subscribe to CMO series REPRESENTS via Apple podcasts, Google podcasts and Spotify.


cmoseries, represents, e2e, professional services, marketing