THE UK MAGAZINE FOR ALL WOMEN WORKING IN LAW
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9 UN 65th CSW
MEDIA No. 1819
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PUBLISHED May 2021 © Legal Women Magazine, Benham Publishing Ltd. LEGAL NOTICE © Benham Publishing. None of the editorial or photographs may be reproduced without prior written permission from the publishers. Benham Publishing would like to point out that all editorial comment and articles are the responsibility of the originators and may or may not reflect the opinions of Benham Publishing. No responsibility can be accepted for any inaccuracies that may occur, correct at time of going to press. Benham Publishing cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies in web or email links supplied to us. DISCLAIMER Legal Women Magazine welcomes all persons eligible for membership regardless of sex, race, religion, age or sexual orientation. All views expressed in this publication are the views of the individual writers and not those of Legal Women unless specifically stated to be otherwise. All statements as to the law are for discussion and should not be relied upon as an accurate statement of the law, are of a general nature and do not constitute advice in any particular case or circumstance.
Disrupters: The Women Leading Lawtech
20 LawCare – Weʼre here to listen
22 Wellbeing in the
24 The toll of the
pandemic on mental health and what is needed for the future
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26 Who is to blame for
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31st July 2021
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30 Careers Q&A 33 Blogs
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Welcome MAY 2021
pril marked #Stressawarenessmonth, more poignant this year, because of the shared experience we all have from living through lockdown. All Law Societies in the UK are launching initiatives on mental health for the profession. Freely available for everyone in the UK from law student onwards, LawCare too has superb resources which I have so much enjoyed reviewing and incorporating in my own life. Most of us know what to do, but it is more about introducing regular habits to protect ourselves. Our theme for this edition is Legal Tech and Wellbeing. Stress has always been a factor in law firms, but the advent of ubiquitous technology and 24/7 lives takes a toll. The pandemic has highlighted our need to achieve a balance in our lives. For each of us this is important but even cynically, for any business, it makes sense to look after the health of your staff – it prevents burnout, increases productivity, creativity, and of course protects against any litigation, for failing in your duty to provide a safe working environment. Thanks to Manda Banerji, Chair of the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD), and trainee, Alice Hughes, for giving insights into mental health issues and how to de-stress. The 2019 JLD survey showed concerning levels of stress suffered and some of the reasons; and that was before the pandemic. Everyone wants staff to be resilient, but it is essential for senior lawyers to take time to understand the world of junior lawyers which has been transformed in the last decade or so. The pace of technology alone means that resilience is a greater challenge than ever before. With growing numbers of different generations in any workplace, it’s important to ensure there is space for exchanging different experiences, to increase understanding of the pressures in each other’s lives. Innovation UK is all about ensuring that our legal profession keeps a competitive edge internationally and its senior policy and innovation advisor, Theresa Yurkewich Hoffmann gives a fantastic insight to some of the women leading the way and a glossary for those of us foxed by the constant flow of new terminology.
LW magazine is for women qualified as lawyers, solicitors, barristers, advocates, judges, legal executives and those working as paralegals, legal secretaries, advisers or recruiters, the list is endless. We also welcome the many male champions as readers and contributors.
I’m delighted to publish some completely practical suggestions on technology for starting your own law firm or business from Alisha McKerron and McKee Campbell Morrison Solicitors in Glasgow. It takes planning and is time-consuming, so you need to make choices: teach yourself or outsource? Inevitably, even to run our usual lives, we need to keep abreast of new technologies – how much time do we want to put aside for that? How much time do we expect staff to train – do you have a regular training slot? Including this in staff training could well ensure you have a competitive edge. Last, but crucially, is the issue of bias in all AI from Christina Blacklaws. Let’s not ‘sleepwalk into this dystopian nightmare’. This needs constant review and is a fundamental reason for ensuring diversity in technology workforces. ■
Founder & Editor Alice Hughes created this fantastic design incorporating the flowers symbolising each of the four nations of the UK (rose/England, daffodil/ Wales, thistle/Scotland and cotton flower/NI). The inspiration is from the emblems in the Supreme Court and I was also grateful to receive words in the languages of the four nations from our Editorial Board.
Our mission is to: ■ Provide clear information on gender parity ■ Inspire practical initiatives to create real change ■ Promote innovation in leadership and practice LegalWomen | 5
Editorial Board We are delighted to receive advice from the distinguished members of our Editorial Board. Full biographies are available on our website. ENGLAND & WALES Christina Blacklaws, Christina was President of the Law Society of England and Wales until July 2019 performing ambassadorial and representative functions domestically and internationally. Christina is a multi-award winning (for innovation and diversity and inclusion) published author, speaker and lecturer and frequent media commentator.
Millicent Grant FCILEx QC (Hon); CILEx Past President 2017/18; CILEx Professional Board Member.
Marta Williamson (MLS) @mylocallawyer Homeschooling v WFH case continues at the Williamson household. The judgement is being reserved... #Law #lawyer #lawyerlife
Janem Jones She practised for many years as a partner and senior partner in a West Wales firm where she specialised in Family Law, Education Law and Criminal Law. She now works as a consultant for Williams and Bourne as an experienced advocate. Sally Penni MBE is a barrister at Kenworthy's Chambers, Manchester, whose practice encompasses Criminal (including Cyber Crime) and Employment Law. Sally is a Bencher at the Honorable Society of Gray’s Inn, Founder of Women in the Law UK and regular broadcaster of the highly acclaimed podcast. NORTHERN IRELAND Karen O’Leary leads Caldwell & Robinson’s Family Law practice. Qualified to practice in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, England, and Wales, Karen is regularly consulted by government and state agencies on legal matters from other jurisdictions. She is a Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers (IAFL). SCOTLAND Alison Atack, Past President of The Law Society of Scotland. Formerly, Alison was a member of the Regulatory Committee and convener of the Client Protection Sub-Committee. She was a partner at Lindsays until March 2018 and has detailed knowledge and experience of private client work, including succession planning and agricultural property.
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Hertfordshire Law Society @HertsLawSoc Wishing everyone a very happy Monday and productive week #coffeetime #LegalAdvice #Solicitors #Law
Phillip Morgan @ PhillipDJMorgan Baby William’s mother Zoe has unfortunately been called for jury service. Breastfeeding a 2 month old was not seen as a reason by junior @ MoJGovUK officials to defer jury service. Surely that’s not fair to the baby, mother, defendant, or the court @RobertBuckland @ MoJPress? UNT Counseling on Instagram “It’s #FeelGoodFriday! What are you doing for self-care this weekend? (Graphic via: @heyamberrae) #CounselingDiverse Students #MentalHealth…”
International Womenʼs Day
Thanks to all those who helped with our IWD 2021 campaign where we partnered with Westminster and Holborn Law Society
veryday sexism wears people down – you can choose to change that by challenging stereotypes and misogyny and celebrating achievements of the women you know. This can be in every part of your life: quietly asking someone not to talk over a woman speaking, not making assumptions about the life ambitions of the women you meet, being respectful to female leaders.
So far there is no country in the world with gender equality and yet it is often thought that the battles have been fought. Women’s rights have come a long way over the last 100 years, bringing the right to vote, enter the professions, own property and financial rights but there is still more to do. In the UK many of the relevant laws are in place but discrimination persists often due to cultural norms.
All of society together can act now. International Women's Day IWD 2021 used a theme of #choosetochallenge. So, make a difference, think globally and act locally! Make every day International Women's Day.
The United Nations has marked IWD since 1975. IWD is an official holiday in many countries including Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. ■
IWD has been marked annually since 1911 on March 8th and is a day of the year to: ■ celebrate women's achievements ■ raise awareness about women's equality ■ lobby for accelerated gender parity ■ fundraise for female-focused charities
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WHERE THE LEGAL COMMUNITY MEETS
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UN 65th CSW
IBA Project: 50/50 by 2030
Law Society of England & Wales delegation attended the virtual UN 65th Commission on the Status of Women. The themes included: ■ Priority theme: Women's full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls; ■ Review theme: Women's empowerment and the link to sustainable development. The event included many formal and informal meetings but was overshadowed by emergency provisions reacting to COVID-19. During this period, women have been marginalised and there has been an upsurge of sexual and gender-based violence. The pandemic risks eroding the fragile gender equality gains accrued over decades, there is an urgent need to draw on the evidence base that has been built through practice, success and failure over time. Other discussions included: ■ The strong link between economic empowerment and the ability to live a life with freedom of choice and from violence. There is a need for investment in providing education and skills for women, including access to resources and economic opportunities. ■ Harnessing the power of the digital world, for example, the creation of apps, such as Safetipin, (Safetipin | Safetipin, Creating Safe Public Spaces for Women) can enable women to access help in cases of violence. ■ All types of violence against women has increased including in the public, political and social spheres as well as in cyberspace but this has not translated into greater protection. ■ The severe problems in tech working environments with 70% of women feeling treated differently from men; low numbers of women working in this industry which is a business issue for companies. ■ The existence of appropriate laws is not sufficient and a culture-shift is also a pre-requisite for a non-discriminatory society. Stereotypes, bias and discriminatory social norms often start in homes and at school. ■ Governments need to put women into decision-making roles to ensure their needs and contributions are not overlooked. ■ The importance of women’s entrepreneurship contributing to economic recovery highlight the need for public private partnerships to support the entrepreneurship and invite the private sector partners to jumpstart change for women around the world.
he International Bar Association, in collaboration with LexisNexis, launched a ground breaking nine-year global project on 8 March 2021 – International Women’s Day - to address the lack of gender parity at the most senior levels across the legal profession, with the tagline 50/50 by 2030. The project is targeted not just at law firms, but at private companies (FTSE 100 firms in the UK), the public sector, and the judiciary, with the aim of achieving equal representation of men and women at the top of the profession. The study will run for nine years and provide empirical evidence of barriers to advancement for women in each sector and jurisdiction, and will highlight initiatives that have a positive impact. Every three years the researchers will measure the results against previous baselines to provide a clear picture of the position over time. The project will start with a pilot in 2021 across 3 countries – England and Wales, Spain and South Africa. Once the methodology has been reviewed and confirmed to be working a further 12 jurisdictions from 2022; (Nigeria, Netherlands, USA, Australia, India, Singapore, UAE, Japan, Chile, Mexico, South Korea and Ukraine). The law is often invisible and intangible but it is central to every society and it should reflect the make-up of that society. The International Bar Association recognises that it must go further and deeper than previous studies on gender parity, which is why it is the first to conduct a global study that will look at 15 major jurisdictions representing each continent. The need for this work and analysis is heighted by the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women. The homeworking demands, unequal domestic burdens and increase in domestic abuse are all factors that are setting back gender parity by a considerable margin. The research will provide practical recommendations and guidance to the profession through its extensive reach throughout the study. Our ability to engage law firms, governments and individual Bar Associations around the world can influence millions like no other study or blueprint for change has done before. ■
The bulk of the global response to COVID-19 is gender blind. More data collection is needed to support real action and investment in the effective integration of gender policies and for dismantling patriarchy, for a more equal and caring humanity. ■ LegalWomen | 9
Diversity & Inclusion
Identifying leaders – how to get gender balance stickier?
elen Broadbridge reviews the latest thinking and research on gender balance in leadership. This is a summary of the longer article published online at Blogs (legalwomen.org.uk) with full references.
Action: Offer training to encourage workers to think about leadership before it is needed. This will give potential leaders time to grow into a leadership identity, both in how they see themselves and in how they are seen by others.
What do organisations look for in leaders? All organisations rely on processes to recruit and promote. Research suggests that organisations struggle to create processes that are truly gender-neutral, resulting in the trend towards gender imbalance higher up organisations. Organisational psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic has popularised this research by asking the tongue-in-cheek question, ‘Why do so many incompetent men become leaders?’1 (His real question is, ‘How can we find ungendered performance criteria?’, but I can accept that this is less catchy). His research focuses on the allure of charismatic individuals (particularly since the mediatisation of leadership since the 1960s – think JFK) and decision-makers’ linked inclination to prefer confidence over competence2. I particularly enjoyed his lament that there will never be a biopic of Angela Merkel going to meetings wellprepared, listening to others talk and making rational decisions after long periods of consultation and reflection.
When do organisations look for leaders? In law firms, solicitors who make partner tend to do so with around ten years of post-qualification experience.3 As competition for training contract places has increased, so has the average age of newly-qualified solicitors – to 29 in 2019. By comparison, the average age of first-time parents in the UK was 30.6 for mothers and 33.6 for fathers in 2018. To the extent that workers are considering having a child, this timing is difficult to navigate. Waiting to be in a position of power before taking parental leave may take too long, compounding the pressure over deciding how to share responsibility for caregiving, especially during the earliest years of a child’s life.
It’s all about the process He points to the uncomfortable conclusion that, despite best intentions, workplace processes are gendered. If we understand the different expectations that men and women face in the workplace, we will be able to design more objective processes. What actions can we take this? Action: Managers should be encouraged to review performance feedback and, if a gender gap is identified, discuss it with the evaluators on their team and make a plan. Managers should be able to find objective, ungendered markers of performance that work for their teams. 10 | LegalWomen
Pre-pandemic, policies offering an alternative to a full week in the office (often to integrate caregiving responsibilities) were taken up primarily by women. Unfortunately, the result of this gender imbalance has been a stigma which impacts all parents – for mothers, a career break, period of part-time work or different start and finish times can be viewed as socially acceptable but incompatible with leadership roles; for fathers, there has been a reluctance to take up these policies in the first place. However, positive change can happen suddenly. Only a handful of years ago, fathers might be offered two weeks of unpaid leave upon the birth of their child. Now, it is not so uncommon to take six months of paid leave, with an increasing number of employers stepping up to align parental rights between mothers and fathers. The great hope of equalising parental leave is, firstly, that it will allow fathers to have a more fulfilling family life (which is reported as being increasingly important to men with every
Diversity & Inclusion
generation) and, secondly, that it will normalise taking time off work – be it parental leave, annual leave or the weekend. Action: Gender-neutralise policies around parenting. Alongside normalising taking parental leave or working part-time for a period, for example, organisations should also widen their leadership identification window to include workers who may be reaccelerating their careers after the most intense period of caregiving responsibility has passed. After all, raising the next generation is a collective project that all of society has a stake in – that includes organisations and, of course, both parents. Part of that responsibility has to be providing jobs that are compatible with caregiving; the economy is better off if it is possible to earn (and thus pay tax) and care at the same time. Concluding remarks Gender imbalance is not inevitable, but it is sticky and current infrastructure is seen to favour men without caregiving responsibilities across the economy. Organisations need to make gender balance stickier than imbalance. They can achieve this by collecting data to find out if systems are having unintended consequences, experimenting with new processes, keeping what works, ditching what does not and reiteration. Ensuring that policies designed to help parents are applied equally to mothers and fathers is a key step to reframing the conversation around parenting and the workplace. In the future, we can hope that parental leave will be seen as a temporary step in a long career path. ■
Member of the Westminster & Holborn Law Society EDI Committee and Tax Solicitor
1. Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas (2019), Why do so many incompetent men become leaders? (And how to fix it), Harvard Business Review Press. 2. Chamorro-Premuzic (2021), If women are better leaders, then why are they not in charge?, Forbes. 3. Connelly, Thomas (2016), Ten years to the top: average time to partnership revealed, Legal Cheek. “The research revealed that 80% of those handed fresh promotions had between nine and 13 years’ post-qualification experience.”
Milestone for London Legal Support Trust
he small team at London Legal Support Trust (LLST) are working hard on an exciting calendar of events for 2021 to bring together the legal community, raise awareness, and most importantly, raise vital funds for frontline free legal advice agencies.
The London Legal Walk, taking place on Monday 18 October and now in its 17th year, has reached a milestone of 180 teams (and counting). The support and enthusiasm is clear to see with the legal community looking forward to walking shoulder to shoulder with colleagues, peers and friends to support access to justice. Celebrating women in the legal profession Although 2020’s virtual event was a great success given the circumstances, LLST is keen to build on the momentum of the 2019 event, which was especially poignant as it celebrated 100 years of women qualifying in the legal profession. With Baroness Hale and Baroness Kennedy QC amongst the senior legal figures participating in the walk, the support for LLST from female lawyers is strong, and the charity is keen to continue celebrating this.
The charity is delighted that for 2021, among the lead walkers will be The Law Society’s president, Stephanie Boyce. In excellent company, previous years’ lead walkers have included Baroness Scotland QC, Baroness Chakrabarti and former CILEx President Millicent Grant QC (Hon), as well as dozens of senior women judges and MPs. LLST is enormously grateful to all the sponsors and supporters of the London Legal Walk, without whom the event would not be able to take place. Why We Walk The mission of the walk is to raise funds for frontline free legal advice agencies that serve people with a range of problems, many of which could be eliminated with the right legal advice. Sadly, advice is not easily available to those with minimal to no income, and the agencies they turn to heavily rely on additional funding from charities such as LLST. What can you do to help? Sign up to LLST’s events at www. londonlegalsupporttrust.org.uk/ our-events/ and you will be supporting access to justice, raising vital funds and sharing your experience with a wonderful community of supporters. ■ LegalWomen | 11
hristina Blacklaws considers if we are sleepwalking into a nightmare world of technological bias. Christina is the former President of the Law Society of England and Wales, business adviser to a range of Boards and businesses on transformational change, technology development and diversity and inclusion. The future is biased? There’s fascinating research which shows that from stab vests to the size of our mobile phones to crash test dummies, the world is basically designed for men.1 The recent debacle about PPE in hospitals being designed for the typically larger frame of men, despite a very high number of staff being female, shows this problem hasn’t gone away despite being the subject of a detailed TUC report in 2017.2 Women are the majority of the global population but by no means the dominant force. And this rings true in the UK, in our world – the law, where although we women make up more than half of practising lawyers, only 31% are partners and an even smaller number are business owners. I wanted to get to grips with this when I became President of the Law Society of England and Wales. So, we conducted the largest ever global survey and completed 250 roundtables in 19 countries to discover why female lawyers were not getting to positions of seniority which were commensurate with our desires, our knowledge, our experience and our sheer numbers.3 And what did we find? Systemic bias. I’d assumed that the lives of women lawyers across the globe would differ wildly, but our research found that the challenges and experiences of female lawyers around the world are very similar. We face social and cultural expectations about how we should behave and what we can and should do because we are female. In every country, this gender stereotyping prejudiced working women, particularly those who had children, and prevented 12 | LegalWomen
capable, excellent, committed women from realising their ambitions. How wrong is it that today anyone is not able to progress due to their gender, race, or any other protected characteristic? Surely, we must all agree that talent is equally spread and that everyone should have the same chances and opportunities as everyone else but, in an esteemed profession like the law, we found that not to be the case for women. This is all really concerning but what I want to focus on is how it could get an awful lot worse! Most of us live with the hope and expectation that things will improve with the greater use of technology. That computers are objective, non-biased, fair and that their decisions can be relied on. However, I’m worried that as we move to an increasingly automated, data-driven world where the computer decides almost everything, all the bias that we know exists, could be hard wired into future decision-making. Bias, frankly, blights our world and makes it an unfair and unkind place for people who aren’t from the dominant culture – and this includes women, people of colour and the disabled, to name but a few. So, the stakes are high, and the not-too-distant future could be really scary. First off, let’s understand how computers make decisions The computer is programmed with a set of instructions called algorithms. The algorithms are fed information so they can learn and understand. They are then able to apply themselves / the instructions to any other information and come up with answers. Well, what’s wrong with that, you may ask. All seems perfectly fair and reasonable, objective etc. But there are two big problems here: ■ how the algorithms are programmed and by whom, ■ the information – the data – they are fed on.
Picture a computer programmer – bet you’re not thinking of someone who looks like me and you’d be right. According to the latest Office of National Statistics data, of the nearly 1 million people employed in IT in the UK, only 18% are female. In the US, in Silicon Valley, white men represent over 80% of executives. So, most of the people writing the programmes and their bosses are all from one particular group and this can lead to serious blind spots and potential bias. And just like stab vests and cars designed for men’s bodies, this can be really dangerous for people who don’t come from that dominant group. The second problem relates to the information / data that is used to train the algorithms. One example is now quite famous. Amazon, as a tech company, quite understandably wanted to use technology to ensure they got the best candidates for the top jobs, so they started to use algorithms to sort through CVs.4 But the algorithms were trained on information from the CVs received from ultimately successful candidates over the last 10 years. Because the tech industry is dominated by men, most of those CVs were from men and the algorithms learned that being male equated with success and started to downgrade women! So, if had ‘captain of the hockey team’ on your CV, that might be looked on favourably, but if it said ‘captain of the women’s hockey team’ then it was probably destined for the bin. Women didn’t represent successful candidates – as there were so few women in top positions and therefore the system started to reinforce this – it’s known as algorithmic bias. Thankfully, Amazon stopped using the system when they understood the consequences, but damage must have been done. I’ll give you another example from my own experience. I chaired a commission which investigated the use of algorithms in the criminal justice system. We found that they are being used widely by police forces all over the country for things like facial recognition (when faces in a crowd, and this could be your face without so much as a by-your-leave, are cross-referenced against faces on ‘watch lists’) and predictive crime mapping. Remember that Tom Cruise film, ‘Minority Report’ where the role of the police was to prevent crimes from happening? Well, this is very similar: an algorithm is used to work out where police officers should be deployed to detect more crimes. But this can create real risks to fairness and promote discrimination. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the more police officers you put in one place, the more crimes they are going to detect there. The use of the algorithm becomes self-reinforcing. Also, there’s no way truly to measure crimes in our society, only proxies such as convictions, or even more problematically, individuals arrested. As it is commonly accepted that the justice system under-serves certain populations and overpolices others, these biases are reflected in the information that the algorithm uses. This creates a real threat to our basic human rights.
societies) and finally the growing body of research that confirms that human beings may lack the confidence and knowledge to question or override algorithmic recommendations, then you could end up with a perfect storm. A world where increasing numbers of decisions are being made by unchecked computers based on information that discriminates against sections of society in a way which none of us would want but where no one is able or willing to say the computer’s wrong! Can we solve bias in AI? My call to action is to make sure that we do not sleepwalk into this dystopian nightmare. There’s another future we could have where, if we can get this right, we could reduce or even remove the bias that blights our current decision-making, where computers can do the heavy lifting for us but in a way that is fair and right and good. At least in part, the solutions could lie in a bias removal approach to classification of algorithms. Some systems are now checked by switching over data (male to female/ female to male; switching ethnicities etc) to check whether the algorithm produces differing results. If it does then it’s back to the drawing board.5 This is challenging, painstaking stuff but if we want a fair and unbiased world, it is surely worth the effort. As lawyers and concerned citizens, we can make a difference. We all need to play our part to make sure that our increasingly computerised and automated world can eradicate systemic bias, not hardwire it into our futures. ■
Christina Blacklaws Former President of the Law Society of England & Wales
1. Caroline Criado-Perez, Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in as World Designed for Men 2. PPE: ‘one size fits all’ design is a fallacy that’s putting female health staff at risk | RCNi Microsoft Word – PPE and women guidance pdf (tuc.org.uk) 3. Women in law roundtable discussions across the regions | The Law Society Women in Leadership in Law | The Law Society 4. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/oct/10/ amazon-hiring-ai-gender-bias-recruiting-engine 5. 4 Ways to Address Gender Bias in AI (hbr.org)
The perfect storm So, if you add the possible bias of the programmers (and every one of us holds our own set of biases but that’s another article) together with the bias in the information that is used to train algorithms (which reflect the past and current bias of our LegalWomen | 13
Innovators and Disrupters: The Women Leading Lawtech Whether it is creating or using lawtech, women are leading the way in legal innovation, creating new career paths, and disrupting how legal services are delivered Theresa Yurkewich Hoffmann The Lawtech Landscape The UK tech landscape is changing the way lawyers perform legal services and how they deliver those services to clients. Approximately 48% of global lawtech investment is in the UK, with over £61million invested in 20191. The ecosystem is incredibly cutting-edge, bringing together data scientists, innovators, lawyers, and technologies to solve client challenges. Whether it is through incorporating lawtech, or technology more broadly, legal services delivery is becoming increasingly efficient, transparent and accessible. By placing an increased focus on the client and their needs, technology is a useful tool for lawyers to find new ways of delivering value. It has also contributed to a real resilience during the pandemic, enabling businesses continuity and new industry norms. There are vast ways in which technology can assist legal services2. For example, lawtech can include: ■ Basic operations (i.e email, Office 365, video conference tools) ■ Document automation (i.e. template or contract creation) ■ Practice management tools (i.e. billing, case management) ■ Transaction management and collaboration (i.e. checklists, document upload, sign off) ■ Predictive tools (i.e. document analysis) ■ Smart contracts ■ Knowledge management and research systems While some of these areas are more emergent than others, digital transformation has really accelerated over the last year. There is also an increased focus on interoperability between products as the market diversifies, which makes their use easier. For tech solutions looking to scale-up, focusing on userfriendly access in a world where clients have several logins or dashboards to look at will be essential for success. Despite the list of solutions above, this is only the beginning. There is certainly still a lot to be discovered. This includes how lawyers capture and analyse data, incorporate the full functionalities of cloud or AI into their IT systems, or utilise the full range of features already present in common tools such as Microsoft Office. For now, however, the priority needs to be around improving digital skills across the profession and approaching technology with an open mind. These are essential 14 | LegalWomen
pieces of change management that will enable the culture shift needed to digitalise a better client experience. The Many Roles of Women in Lawtech There are many women leading the way in lawtech and legal innovation, but there is still much more room for growth. For example, only 15% of lawtechs report being female founded3, and 19% of UK tech workers are women4. Despite these figures, there are some positive examples of women building communities to help others emerge in this space and using their voices to lead change in the ecosystem. Meet the Women Shruti Ajitsaria Partner and Head of Fuse, Allen & Overy “Being made a partner in a legaltech role whilst working part time, I have had first-hand experience of challenging the status quo and balancing a demanding career with my young children. Without representation in leadership positions, these diverse experiences can easily be ignored or misconstrued. More than ever, it is important that we have good role models who are honest about the struggles and joys of their career, to enable those entering the legal profession to see a role they seek to emulate.” In the public sector, the City Corporation’s Head of Financial and Professional Services Technology, the Director of LawtechUK, and the Ministry of Justice’s Head of Legal Services Innovation are all roles currently held by women. Women are also in leadership positions at the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the Law Society of England and Wales and the Law Commission, each of these bodies working to shape policy and with it, legal service delivery. Meet the Women Mary Kyle Head of FPS Technology, City of London Corporation “I look forward to a time when we don’t talk about lawtech and legal services as two separate concepts, but instead simply have a legal industry that is tech enabled and innovative in how it operates and delivers its service to clients.”
Meet the Women Jenifer Swallow Director, LawtechUK “We do not have to be bound by how things have been. Lawtech offers an opportunity to look through a fresh lens – to break out of the mould. The sense of this is palpable in those who are pioneering in this space, including the many incredible women. The reverberations can reach way beyond law. We can break the mould in how and why we work, how we collaborate and support each other, and how we choose to lead and be as women, at all levels.” If you look at the private sector, women are leading experts in the application and legal analysis of blockchain and other new-age technologies, innovation and knowledge managers, CEOs of alternative legal services providers, and heads of accelerator programmes. There are also many respected female leaders in legal design, strategy and policy, and other cross-functional roles. Meet the Women Priya Lele Legal Operations Lead, Client Solutions, UK/US & EMEA, Herbert Smith Freehills and Co-Founder, She Breaks the Law She Breaks the Law is a global community of women leaders and change makers (aka #lawbreakers) who are passionate about the power of innovation and collaboration to drive positive change in the legal ecosystem. “Dismantling the barriers women face starts with us coming together to share our experiences, support and empower each other and make our voices louder.” The roles of inspirational women in tech does not stop with jobs at traditional legal firms either. Women are founding legal engineering and design firms, lawtechs, and leading digital transformation departments that assist with the profession’s overall development. Meet the Women Isabel Parker Executive Director, Digital Legal Exchange and Founder, Doyenne Consulting “I qualified as a solicitor 24 years ago, when female leaders in the profession were a rarity. Although some progress has been made, legal services remains a very male dominated profession, particularly at the top. One reason for this may be that the traditional law firm pyramid does not readily accommodate women with childcare or caring responsibilities. According to the SRA’s recent report on diversity in law firms, in firms with 50plus partners, 50% of the lawyers are women but only 29% are partners (no change since 2017). The good news is that a clientdriven focus on innovation has created new leadership roles and new opportunities for women. Women who think differently, who challenge the status quo, who focus on human centred design to deliver an elevated client experience and who relish the opportunity to lead diverse, multi-disciplinary teams are thriving in these newly created roles. It is a very exciting time to be a woman focussed on digital transformation in legal, particularly as the growing community of senior women provides a strong support network.”
GLOSSARY Lawtech There is some discussion around the terms ‘lawtech’ or ‘legaltech’ and which is more appropriate. For this article, I use the term lawtech to mean technology that enables legal services delivery (front or back of office). Legal services delivery The way tools, resources, and expertise are used to deliver client outcomes. Interoperability The ability for products or systems, whether designed and manufactured by the same company or not, to connect and communicate with each other (i.e: emails from different servers are sent and received as normal, WhatsApp works with your phone camera, banking apps can verify data between themselves for quick payment, tech tools can work between different cloud providers). Resilience A business’s ability to respond to risk and disruption and adapt in order to continue operations. Covid-19 was a massive lesson in operational resilience, but other risks may include cyber security, natural disasters, infrastructure access, financial loss, or supply chain readiness.
RESOURCES ■ The Global City theglobalcity.uk/industries/lawtech (industry outlook and innovation projects) ■ The Law Society lawsociety.org.uk/campaigns/lawtech (practice notes, research reports, guides) ■ LawtechUK technation.io/lawtechuk (lawtech programmes and a look at the landscape) ■ Legal Geek legalgeek.co/resources (‘WTF’ series on lawtech, tech maps, digital skills programmes) ■ SRA sra.org.uk/solicitors/resources/innovate/sra-innovate (regulatory support) ■ The Legaltech Book (2020) Bhatti, Chishti, Datoo, Indjic (information and lessons learned)
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Continued from previous page Career Progression New roles in legal technology are being created every year, as well as alternative business structures that are more flexible and inclusive. As women take on more leadership roles, they build a community that can support other women in not only entering lawtech but thriving. For example, the European Women of Legal Tech5 awards were created to increase visibility of women’s work in legal technology and to support further innovation. Other groups such as Women in Tech6 or London Tech Advocates7 exist to challenge gender bias and provide a forum for discussion. This is an enticing space with room for creativity and women’s voices are vital to the conversation, paving the way for accommodating work practices that don’t hinder career progression. In fact, now more than ever, careers that facilitate different lifestyles or responsibilities are essential for women. A survey recently reported that 70% of women were doing all or most home-schooling during Covid-related school closures.8 1 in 5 mothers reported reducing their working hours to cope with increased duties, and more than a third felt impacted in their careers in a way that didn’t occur for their partner.9 In addition to that, women have been taking on more household responsibilities and life admin, almost amounting to additional full-time roles. While these realities are exacerbated by the pandemic, they are not new. The Skills of the Future As legal services delivery changes so do the skills modern lawyers need. We are seeing an increasing number of women interested in developing digital skills, illustrating their ambition to lead. For example, the City Corporation recently hosted a legal innovation programme, Innovation Ambassadors10, which brought together representatives from across the legal sector in a variety of roles to learn about lawtech and challenge the status quo. The programme was a beacon of hope, with a 50 / 50 split of men and women in attendance. The ability to empathize with the client, use design thinking, and challenge traditional ways of doing things is what really matters in this space. Soft skills that might have been overlooked previously are now essential keys to success in innovation. For example, emotional intelligence skills such as harmonizing relationships or ensuring a client feels heard are important in gaining – and keeping – work.
16 | LegalWomen
The Opportunity for Disruption The story is just beginning. Whether it is the use, development, or incorporation of lawtech, there is a lot of opportunity to disrupt this space. It shows that practice can be combined with lifestyle without sacrificing efficiency, high-quality service delivery, or our own wellbeing. Collaboration, mentorship and a general coalescence around common goals will remain important if we want to increase gender parity. Sharing stories of successful women and ways that lawtech can challenge the status quo will play a key role in advancing the ecosystem. Over time, we will become more familiar with women in STEM as successful data scientists, coders, or entrepreneurs, guiding the way for more female founders. And the solutions developed along the way will become entrenched ways of working. I am left with a sense of optimism about the way this will positively impact the legal sector. In the future I hope we can expect a more inclusive and diverse legal ecosystem, that has been made better by the women working within it. ■
Theresa Yurkewich Hoffmann
Senior Policy and Innovation Advisor The City of London Theresa works in digital innovation, with a focus on the technology, legal and professional services ecosystems. She has a background in law and communications and has advised clients on innovation projects around the world. 1. https://www.theglobalcity.uk/industries/lawtech 2. LegalGeek is working on a new lawtech start-up map. For now, view their older version and lawtech categories here: https://www.legalgeek.co/startup-map/#startupmap. 3. As of May 2020: https://technation.io/lawtechuk/ 4. https://technation.io/insights/diversity-and-inclusion-in-uktech-companies/ 5. https://womenoflegaltech.eu/ 6. https://www.womenintech.co.uk/women-in-tech-in-london 7. https://tlawomenintech.org/ 8. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/08/half-ofwomen-in-uk-fear-equality-is-going-back-to-1970s-survey 9. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/08/half-ofwomen-in-uk-fear-equality-is-going-back-to-1970s-survey 10. https://www.theglobalcity.uk/resources/innovationambassadors
App-Based Digital Onboarding Solution by InfoTrack & Perfect Portal Streamline client onboarding with your very own mobile app
lectronic client onboarding solution (eCOS) is a powerful advancement within the legal industry. Perfect Portal, a market-leading legal technology provider, has integrated eCOS into their branded mobile app for law firms to provide a streamlined digital onboarding journey for their clients. This seamless integration of both technologies is now accessible through a mobile app, allowing you to access the InfoTrack platform and simplify the process of onboarding, from the convenience of a mobile phone. eCOS connects law firms with their clients through a single portal, condensing the onboarding process, digitally, from weeks into less than two hours. The ability to verify identity and funds authentically and safely in a single, data-driven solution for law firms is radical and has been welcomed by firms to support the conveyancing industry in a time of crisis. “Given the circumstances of the past year, we were searching for alternatives to better support our clients throughout the onboarding process,” discusses Amy Church, Managing Partner at Lucas & Wyllys Solicitors. “As the pandemic prevented new clients from visiting the branch, we reached out to Perfect Portal once we discovered they were offering their premium members a fully-integrated digital solution for onboarding clients.”
As well as increasing digital security measures whilst reducing the timeframe of onboarding, this integration also reduces the likelihood of human error through a user-friendly interface that displays a step-by-step guide of actionable tasks. Complete/ incomplete sections are presented, and each category within the onboarding process is marked in a percentile form so the consumer and the fee earner can monitor the progression of their matter. This ground-breaking technology couldn’t be summed up more accurately than Scott Bozinis, CEO of InfoTrack and a self-confessed advocate for analogies. “Before oyster cards, people had to queue up on a daily basis to buy tickets for the underground. Now, commuters use contactless payment methods to travel. Although the act of travelling hasn’t changed, the capacity to purchase and make their way onto the designated platform has been simplified. This is eCOS. We have utilised technology and streamlined digital processes through our integration with Perfect Portal to ensure law firms/ conveyancing establishments have the tools to work more efficiently, whilst their clients can experience a more userfriendly, time effective onboarding process via the firm’s app.” Register for the webinar on Tuesday, 11th May at 11am to learn more: https://bit.ly/3tRZFlS. ■
Combined, these technologies are designed to streamline the client onboarding data within a property transaction. The earlier the data is gathered, the better informed all parties in the transaction are. Amy continues, “Once we discovered how easy it was for our clients to reach compliance, and how the level of automation enabled our staff to manage a higher concentration of matters – we just wished we invested in the tech before the pandemic obliged us to do so!”. eCOS is accessible through a firm’s tailored mobile app, designed to reflect their brand by Perfect Portal’s in-house graphic design team. From verification of identity (VOI) to verification of funds (VOF), Law Society protocol forms to e-signatures; eCOS challenges the traditional use of point solutions by providing a fully connected tool kit within the InfoTrack platform. This integration puts the conveyancer in the driving seat by collecting data early to complete conveyancing transaction more quickly. “eCOS, the user-friendly, paperless solution for onboarding has been incredibly popular amongst new and existing law firms that use Perfect Portal’s technology. As we offer various integrations with some of the leading legal suppliers, the capture of early client data can be seamlessly transferred, diminishing the need for double keying whilst further enhancing overall efficiencies. Our mission has always been to help our law firms become more efficient and client-centric. We are constantly innovating our offerings and integrating with other leading technologies to provide our firms with a competitive edge.” Yvonne Hirons, Founder & CEO of Perfect Portal explains. LegalWomen | 17
Starting a business?
Here are essential technology tips to get you going By Alisha McKerron, former magistrate, freelance privacy lawyer and occasional blogger at deskof
ike it or not, gone are the days where we can set up a business without using the world wide web and expect to succeed. And we should rejoice; it has never been easier to set up a business with an online presence, cheaply and capable of scaling up with ease as we grow. There is room for everyone, not just the big players! I should know because I was able to set up my business called deskof within a day – and it only costs three flat white coffees a month to keep everything running. Domain name, website and business email The first step is our own domain name. This enables us to have our own company website and email address (i.e. a ‘you@ yourcompany.com’ address with our own business name instead of a generic one such as gmail.com or yahoo.com). Both are necessary to give our business a more professional look, help earn our customers’ trust as a legitimate business and promote our brand. So we must come up with a name – for example abcservices.com – perhaps using the name or trade name of a limited company we have incorporated. We can register it for a small annual fee with any domain registrar – I used Namecheap at a cost of £9.58 per year – or we can use a web hosting service (see below) to do this on our behalf. The latter typically does not charge for the first year’s cost of domain name registration. Hosting our domain name Next we need to choose somewhere to host our DNS. DNS (the Domain Name System) is how computers look up the internet addresses (IP addresses) for our new domain name. When you type “abcservices.com” into your browser, we need a DNS nameserver to translate that into the IP address of the server that hosts our website. Cloudflare is not a bad service to use, and they offer a generous free plan. But it’s not just a question of us opening an account – what is needed is inputting our domain name on Cloudflare for them to give us nameservers, to use set up on Namecheap and a 24 hour wait. If we do not feel confident enough to do this, we can rely on the same web hosting service provider mentioned above to do the domain mapping for us. They typically will do this for free provided that you use them to host your website. Web hosting service & Content Management System Web hosting service providers are necessary to get our website active and live on the internet. We can think of them as letting out space on a server where our website files will be placed. There are many to choose from. If we want to maintain a level of independence, we can use them to only host our website, in which case we would need to build our website ourselves on our computer to be uploaded to their server. Or we could use them not only to host our website but provide us with a CMS. CMS (Content Management System) is software that will help us create, manage, and modify content on our website without the need for specialized technical knowledge. I chose WordPress. com (Personal) at a cost of £39 to build my blog, because they provide an easy to use CMS. Email system Next we need to decide what email system we want to use. For 18 | LegalWomen
a monthly fee of £4.60, I decided to use Google Workspace (Business Starter), not only because it allows me to have up to 30 email addresses per account – by creating email aliases such as firstname.lastname@example.org – but because of the incredibly useful app it offers as well as 30 GB storage. This brings me to the next decision we need to make – which office suite to use. Office suites Although not yet long gone, one-time-installations of software on personal computers are being less used. And thank heavens for that, because associated with on-time-installations were installation and configuration problems, mandatory hardware purchases and back up worries. All of this is taken care of by “software as a service” (SaaS) offerings, such as Google Workspace or Microsoft Office 365, where we pay a regular subscription to get software served directly to us, hosted, pre-configured and ready to go. We are purchasing a service, meaning we do not own the software we buy. This may sound foreign to those of us who used to work for a large organisation, and haven’t given much thought to how work computers were set up. But rest assured SaaS products are easy to set up and use. Choosing a SaaS offering will come down to price and preference. Naturally as lawyers most of us will be familiar with Word and its ability to compare one document against another – an indispensable tool for many lawyers. If that’s the case then an annual subscription to Microsoft Office 365 is what we want. All the more so if you wish to use comments; sharing google documents with comments via a word file attachment rather than through a link may result in comments getting a little scrambled in the word conversion. However I opted for Google Workspace and have not looked back. (Although it did take time to get used to the concept of sharing documents via links as opposed to attachments to emails and to understand the value of search when it comes to filing documents). I believe I now have better control of my documents and am able to collaborate more easily. If we do not want to spend any money, we can use LibreOffice. It is free to download, works on most operating systems no matter how out of date, and feels similar to Word. It does not offer any services across devices but that shouldn't be a problem if we set up Dropbox – a cloud storage service, which enables us to copy files to the cloud and access them later, even if you’re using a different device. We may however have reservations about using a cloud storage service given our obligations to keep documents confidential and security concerns we may have. Both Google Drive and Dropbox offer two-factor authentication and encrypt your data when it’s in transit – from the cloud storage service to your device, and vice versa. Have a read of this. What’s next? The good news is that with the support of tech it has never been easier or more affordable to set up our own business. Even if you are not sure you want to make a start, you might want to put aside an hour or two a week to start looking at each issue. Any feelings of tech intimidation can easily be dispelled by reading the many helpful articles and video clips on the web. A business set up correctly today, will run efficiently, be competitive and scale up with very little difficulty. It’s up to us to tap into these amazing resources. ■
LegalTech tips from Glasgow firm By Stacy Campbell & Maureen McKee Matheson
e recently launched McKee Campbell Morrison Solicitors, based in Glasgow and offering a full suite of legal services for individuals and businesses ranging from startup businesses to PLCs. Deciding to start a new firm was not easy, particularly with the uncertainty of Covid-19. The pandemic has shown us a new way of working and how technology can be used to become as “admin-light” as possible, allowing us to focus on the more commercial elements of running a new legal services business. Here are some of the considerations from our business plan. Office space The traditional operating model is a large city centre office, a team of receptionists manning the front of house and phones; secretaries for fee-earners as well as in-house finance and IT teams. A server will be located in the office and work-from-home is considered a last resort rather than a choice. This model didn’t fit how we wanted to work and, by taking advantage of the technology currently available, we have decided to work in a different way. As for many of us, we have mostly been working from home since March 2020 and have grown to enjoy this and see the benefits (and challenges!) of having more time at home and with our families. So should we have an office and, if so, what should that office look like? The advantages of a city centre presence, are as a base to meet our clients and contacts and for the collegiality of the firm. It gives us the opportunity to have a “change of scene” when working and avoid the fatigue and lack of motivation, that can set in, when solely working from home. We wanted the best of both worlds – if a member of staff wants to work from the home they can and the same applies if the member of staff wants to come to the office. To enable this flexible working to operate properly and efficiently, we needed technology: hardware and software. IT Consultants We engaged IT consultants at an early stage (and highly recommend this to others looking to start a new firm). The advice on the various options open to us was invaluable with clear insight and a subjective viewpoint on each option. In terms of hardware, all our staff members have laptops and multiple screens both at home and in the office. We have also provided our staff members with commercial level printers at home. The idea is that staff members can simply connect their laptop in at the office or at home and there will be no difference in their operational capacity. We have decided to use a cloud-based client practice management system. The benefits are: ■ There’s no need for a large server based in our office, saving space and cost. ■ It allows for full remote working, allowing our staff to log on to the system from any location and benefit from the IT support offered by the system operator. ■ It means that we do not need someone in the office at all times in case the server goes down and needs a reboot!
After discussions with our IT consultants, we decided to use Microsoft Teams, both for its internal communications system and also as the portal for our telephone system. This has meant that we have been able to set up a system whereby calls are directed to a general number or our direct dials and they are answered via our laptops or mobiles. This has proved to be really efficient and saved us a significant cost in either engaging a fulltime receptionist or outsourcing that role. Anti-money Laundering Anti-money laundering checks is a substantial administrative task for all firms. Traditionally this was achieved by meeting a client in person, taking a photocopy of their passport and a utility bill and instructing a search against that individual. This can be very time-consuming, particularly for private client and residential property solicitors who deal with a large number of clients at any time. We use the anti-money laundering platform offered by an Edinburgh based technology company Amiqus Resolution (Fraser Morrison, our Managing Director, actually acted for a number of the investors in Amiqus). Amiqus are strategic partners of the Law Society of Scotland and part of the LawScotTech initiative which promotes better use of technology within law firms . Amiqus offers anti-money laundering and compliance checks with its award winning Amiqus ID product. This allows us to securely collect, analyse and manage antimoney laundering and compliance information. It checks identity records, verifies photo identification and also has Companies House integration. Cashroom: in-house or outsource? A fundamental part of the operation of a successful law firm is its cashroom. We decided that outsourcing this function suited our needs. The threat posed by cyber criminals is a real concern and a particular risk to businesses handling funds on behalf of clients. There have been well documented accounts of law firms being targeted and client funds misappropriated which is enough to send shivers down the spine of any law firm owner. We have therefore been really impressed by the Portal Technology provided by The Cashroom. All cashiering services, financial information and communication are completed under one secure platform and ensure full GDPR compliance. It also provides a clear audit trail, and the use of an automated workflow improves efficiency across the firm. Robots Another form of tech that we are considering is the use of Robots. While we have no intention of trying to replace future trainees with Robots, we are seriously considering Robot Process Automation (RPA). RPA is ideal for routine PC based tasks that employees can find unbearably monotonous. The Robot would take over this work and free up employees to focus on more rewarding, higher value work. More on this anon but it is something which is firmly on our radar. We’ve been really lucky to launch our business at a time which coincides with the acceleration in the availability of legaltech and to reap the benefits that this progress has undoubtedly brought to the profession. We look forward to seeing what the next innovations in legaltech will be and to getting on board! ■ LegalWomen | 19
LawCare – Weʼre here to listen
he charity LawCare was founded over twenty years ago to address issues from pressure of work or study to financial problems, coping with illness, depression and many other problems. The need is more than ever with the pandemic experience we all share. Elizabeth Rimmer, Chief Executive, discusses the challenges to the legal profession and what LawCare can do to help. Lawyers in COVID At LawCare, the legal mental health charity, we have been contacted by many legal professionals who are feeling burnt out, struggling to cope with the workload and the demands upon them. We hear from those on furlough who are anxious about their future, from lawyers whose relationships or finances are under great strain and from parents who have found the mental load of home-schooling and working impossible. Since March 2020, around 34% of all contact to our support service have had a COVID element with the top issues being a deterioration of of existing mental health issues, not being permitted to work from home, struggling to adapt to working at home, feeling isolated and being overloaded with work. The legal profession and wellbeing Life in the law is challenging at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. While it can be a fantastically rewarding career, most would agree that there is a heavy workload and a great deal of pressure. Law is traditionally very hierarchical and male dominated at the top and it can be difficult to talk about how you are feeling for fear of showing weakness or being disadvantaged in some way. Bullying and harassment is common. Law by its nature is adversarial and reactive, there is a lot of negative emotion in the law and you are often required to look for the worst case scenario which means your brain become used to overthinking and defaults to pessimism. Often the type of work can be traumatic. You are dealing with people at crisis points in their lives particularly in family law or asylum cases. Managing client expectations can be tough, alongside an attitude of doing whatever it takes to get the job done regardless of personal wellbeing. 20 | LegalWomen
The legal personality In addition to the challenges presented by the pandemic and the culture of law, the type of person who goes into the law often has traits which can hamper wellbeing. They usually have high expectations of themselves and what they want to achieve in life and are often perfectionists. This means they find it hard to say “no” to people and any bump in the road is hard for them to manage. They find it hard to ask for help, believing they should be self-sufficient. Recognising poor mental health We all have mental health and at different points in our lives we are likely to have good and poor mental health. Sometimes it can be hard to tell there is a problem. Stress tends to build slowly and you may have got so used to working at a certain pace or feeling a certain way that you do not realise you need help. Some lawyers are existing in a near constant state of chronic stress, which can lead to burn out. Here are some things to watch out for: ■ Irritability ■ Lethargy, sleep problems ■ Panic attacks ■ Nausea ■ Aches and pains ■ Poor concentration, memory and motivation ■ Withdrawal – cancelling plans, loss of interest ■ Deterioration in relationships ■ Feeling overwhelmed ■ Inability to switch off How LawCare can help If you are struggling then the most important thing is to talk about how you are feeling – you will be surprised how much better you will feel from just offloading. When we are in a difficult situation we lose our problem-solving abilities, it can be impossible to focus and it can seem overwhelming to choose what action to take. Sometimes a listening ear and a nudge in the right direction is all we need to move on.
Our support service At LawCare we offer a free and confidential emotional support service, a safe place to talk without judgement, with calls, online chats and emails answered by trained staff and volunteers who have first-hand experience of working in the law. We understand life in the law and all its challenges. This is what makes our support service unique- you will be talking to one of your peers in the profession. Our team are not counsellors and they cannot provide people with solutions to their problems but they have been specifically selected and trained in listening skills and are empathetic and no--judgemental. Most legal professionals find that one or two conversations with our support service are enough to help them move forward and have clarity about what to do next. We will often signpost callers to various organisations who can help with particular issues, assist with accessing further support or suggest next steps such as how to broach a conversation with your manager for example.
Who LawCare helps We support everyone working in the legal profession in the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man including solicitors, barristers, judges, Chartered Legal Executives, paralegals, trademark attorneys, patent attorneys, costs lawyers, notaries, licensed conveyancers, support staff and concerned family members. Our support spans the legal life from student to training to practice and retirement. The LawCare helpline is 0800 279 6888 (Monday to Friday 9-5.30pm) or you can email us at email@example.com. uk.You can also find information and resources, and access our online chat on our website www.lawcare.org.uk. LawCare also offers training remotely and in person for legal workplaces and organisations on mental health and wellbeing. We also have a free course on managing and understanding emotions and stress and developing healthy working practices which you can access at fitforlaw.org.uk. ■
Our peer support network For those who have are struggling with a particular, ongoing issue we also have a network of 100 trained volunteer peer supporters who offer emotional support by telephone over a Elizabeth Rimmer period of weeks or months. Our supporters all have first-hand Chief Executive experience of legal education, training and practice and lived LawCare experience of a difficult time in their personal or professional life and so are well placed to help other legal professionals. Our peer supporters reflect the diversity of the legal Top 10 tips for reconnecting with nature profession across the UK and are drawn from all branches of the legal profession and at all career stages. They are from different age Leave your curtains open a bit groups, genders, and ethnic backgrounds. a night so you
Recharge in nature
One of our peer supporters, Claire, told us” “One of the real privileges of this is being able to say that I have stood where they have stood and understand what they are thinking, and have felt the anxieties they are feeling. When you’ve had a critical illness, just going to work presents you with a whole new set of issues you’ve never experienced before and it can be an exceptionally bumpy ride, often feeling like you are taking one step forward and two steps back. It is truly amazing for me to walk that journey with another person, knowing that I have also taken those steps, but also to walk with them for a time, to a place when the rollercoaster is less bumpy.” What LawCare can help with The most common issues we help with are: ■ Anxiety ■ Stress ■ Depression ■ Addiction ■ Bereavement ■ Relationship problems at work ■ Returning to work after illness or a career break ■ Worrying if law is the right career for you ■ Facing disciplinary proceedings either by your regulator or employer ■ Covid related concerns such as feeling isolated, struggling with working from home, supervision, fears about returning to work
Get up early to watch the sunrise – a few minutes peace at the start of the day can set you on the right track.
wake to daylight – this helps with setting a healthy sleep rhythm.
Reclaim your lunchbreak and get outside whatever the weather – leave your phone at home. A break outside away from your desk gives you perspective and improve your productivity.
Have your morning coffee outside, see how many birds you can spot – this acts as a form of mindfulness, allowing you to be quiet and still for a moment.
5 Walk or run without headphones, listen to the sounds around you – a lack of distraction helps to ground you in the present moment.
If you live near the sea, a lake or a lido try cold water swimming which is proven to help diminish the ﬁght or ﬂight response – but do research it ﬁrst!
Try forest bathing – walk slowly through a wood and forest and just ‘be’, taking in the atmosphere with all your senses.
Go out at night and look at the stars – it’s a great way to calm a busy mind and connect with the world.
Grow your own vegetables, plants or ﬂowers in a garden, balcony or just a pot on a windowsill. Gardening is proven to beneﬁt your mental health.
Take every opportunity to watch and be around animals – no matter how small.
For emotional support call
0800 279 6888
Access online chat, email support, factsheets and other resources at www.lawcare.org.uk facebook.com/LawCare
Company registration no. 3313975. Registered as a charity in England and Wales No 1061685. In Scotland No SCO39335
LegalWomen | 21
Wellbeing in the Legal Profession S
ssssshhh… Are we still too quiet on women-centred issues as a profession?
It’s great to see wellbeing discussed more than ever by employers, but are there issues that either disproportionately or uniquely affect women that we’re still too silent on? I’m talking about the stuff of the everyday. The stuff that, to be honest, we probably needed to conceal when we started to break into male-dominated businesses over half a century ago, in order to conform and demonstrate that women can achieve exactly the same as men. I’m talking about periods, menopause, family planning and caring, and how they can complicate our path to success and impact on our wellbeing. Some of these cycles and milestones can be really hard for women to balance alongside careers. But how are employers meant to help? And is it their role? I’d suggest that in a legal profession where, in Scotland, 70% of newly admitted solicitors are female, it’s vital to think about. Do we really need to talk about periods? Menstruation is a monthly inevitability for a lot of working women. Generally, we’ll have got used to the signs and symptoms that we get on a regular basis since being at school. But even though we’re used to it, the challenging physical realities of being ‘on’ don’t always improve, just because they’re normal for us. But how many of us can make any adjustments to our working days to make ourselves as comfortable as possible when we’re on our period? Do we feel like we can be open with our employers? “As a lawyer in the construction industry, I can often be the only woman in a room. My biggest distress in these situations is that the specific needs of a woman throughout the day can often be neglected. The lack of sufficient rest breaks during lengthy meetings can lead to embarrassing excusals to the toilet and potentially missing key information during such a break. The lack of sanitary product provisions within office and site toilets can further this embarrassment when we are forced to strategically carry a sanitary product to the bathroom.” Some workplaces have gone so far as to implement what is commonly called ‘period leave’, like Nike back in 2007. But ‘period leave’ can be hotly contested, with some citing that these policies can hold women back in their careers or be a source of discrimination. Yet, according to menstrual health researcher Sally King, the answer does lie in properly implementing policies: “flexible working practices and not penalising sick leave would help enormously. Many employers already do this, because such practices have been shown to improve employee retention and performance, and to reduce absences, too.” Research suggests that we’re not able to be as open as we can be, which isn’t helpful. According to research conducted in 2017 and published by the British Medical Journal, a total of 13.8% of women reported absenteeism during their menstrual periods. But when women called in sick due to their periods, only 20.1% told their employer or school that their absence was due to menstrual complaints. Notably, 67.7% of the participants wished they had greater flexibility in their tasks and working hours at work or school during their periods. 22 | LegalWomen
“I typically have one or two days of severe pain. If this falls on work time, it can be difficult to deal with, with nausea and pain impacting meetings. However, last time, I took the decision to email my boss and simply say “I have my period and feel terrible”. His reply was that he has two daughters and a wife and totally gets it. He was supportive and unperturbed.” When is the right time to plan for a family when trying to build a successful career? While planning a family does impact everyone involved, it is usually a woman who feels the biological pressure of ‘the clock’ and takes more time off on maternity leave. This can be our choice, but often parental leave provisions dictate reality. The planning involved in family versus career is, I suspect, where the gender pay gap properly takes hold, rather than maternity leave. The moves that we do or don’t make early in the legal profession will influence our future careers and can been keenly felt by those just starting out in law. “I would have thought I would have started a family by now. The idea of having to take maternity leave during my traineeship is not ideal, as I have worked hard for so long to get myself qualified. By the time I qualify I will be turning 33 and although I know these days it doesn't sound very old to be starting a family, you don't ideally want to start a job and then take maternity leave immediately.” “In an ideal world I wouldn't want to have to sit down and meticulously plan when we could fit in children. I would say, wanting to be successful and have children are two of the most natural feelings in the world. It is upsetting that we are finding it so hard to balance both.” What about employers who introduce enhanced paternity leave in an attempt to level the playing field? “I fought last year to improve paternity provision. My rationale was that, as the only female on the management team, I didn’t want to take 9 months off and have my male colleagues take only 1 week (self-serving motivation I know!). I was successful, but the first male to benefit has decided to work and not take leave but for a few random days here and there. I feel this sets a bad example for younger male colleagues and perhaps even sets an expectation for the females. Impact is to be seen!” Without making a concerted effort to normalise parental leave, we’ll just end up with another policy that doesn’t actually make a difference. It’s my belief that sharing parental leave also has an impact far beyond a child’s first year and would lead to more equality in future childcare responsibilities. Navigating the menopause Once the preserve of hushed conversations or, probably more likely, no conversations, employers are turning their attention to the menopause. “I recently attended a workplace talk on the menopause and, as someone in my 30s, it opened my eyes to the fact I knew nothing about its impact. After, I spoke to my mum about it, who admitted that she had experienced several episodes so bad over the years that she wasn’t able to climb up or down stairs at all and didn’t properly sleep for months due to overheating. She hid that well.” Menopause is a time of huge physical and mental change for many women. According to figures shared in the House of
Commons in 2018, 50% of working women found doing their job challenging due to menopausal symptoms and 10% left the workplace altogether. The Police Federation of England & Wales are at the forefront of facilitating a conversation and actions around menopause. Its new guidance outlines comprehensive actions line managers can take to support colleagues including considering the physical demands of the job, looking at flexible options and correctly recording sickness absences as an ongoing health issue. Critically, it defines menopause as a normal event for women and recommends that adjustments and additional support are made available when possible. You can also check out the menopause support resource for the legal profession, recently released by the Law Society of Scotland and Peppy. Caring in later working life Caring on an informal but regular basis for relatives, partners or friends is a reality for a large proportion of the working population. ONS data based on England and Wales highlights that informal caring responsibilities peak in the 50s and 60s age group, and that these responsibilities fall far more on women than men. In a study of 52–69-year-olds, the data showed that almost one in four (24%) female workers care, compared with just over one in eight (13%) male workers. In addition, another ONS report has found that, as our population ages, the need for informal care will only increase meaning more people, and particularly more women, having to balance work with informal caring duties. Informal care providers are hugely important to the economy and society. Yet, being a carer can come at great personal cost with carers often experiencing tiredness, no time for themselves and increased risk of ill-health. Caring responsibilities shouldn’t be invisible, yet childcare can often be far more acknowledged than other caring roles. An open dialogue between employers and staff will open the door for support like flexible and part-time options to be explored. It’s imperative that employers think proactively, as financial pressures will require older people to stay in the workplace longer in future, according to this ONS report. Without action and more support available, this will only grow as a pressure point for women trying to juggle their careers and external responsibilities, at double the rate of men, if current statistics on caring remain consistent in future.
The upshot? Flexibility seems to be the watchword, as well as creating an environment where everyone can be open about what they need. My questions for employers would be: do you have policies and procedures that are embedded and consistently implemented? In my experience, wellbeing-related support is too often patchy and driven by progressive individuals rather than being implemented across businesses. These discussions are all part of the wider conversation about being able to bring our whole selves to work, which is critical to protecting long-term careers in the law, as well as assuring it remains sustainable for our wellbeing. After all, we aren’t in the 1960s anymore. ■
Careers & Wellbeing Manager Law Society of Scotland
LW Social Media Content Writers L egal Women is active on three sites, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. To produce good quality content and schedule posts is very much full-time work so we would welcome extra assistance to share the burden.
We are very fortunate to have Charity Mafuba doing fantastic work on building our Instagram site as well as Alice Hughes and Emma Webb working on our Twitter content. This is a great way to keep up to date with the latest developments, build contacts and exercise social media as a business tool. If anyone has an interest in this please contact Coral@LegalWomen.org.uk. ■
Emma Webb LegalWomen | 23
Manda Banerji, Chair of the Junior Lawyers Division, discusses the toll of the pandemic on mental health and what is needed for the future
s technology has improved, we have reaped the benefits of working from home, perhaps to let the plumber in on the odd occasion or wait for that delivery. It has been a nice-to-have; a convenience. In some ways, it has been aspirational for many junior lawyers, as it was often senior colleagues and partners, who had the luxury of working from home. Unsurprisingly, at the start of the pandemic many junior lawyers reported enjoying the new status quo. The lack of a commute gave them more free time, zoom quizzes and socials filled the calendar. Yet now, the novelty has worn off and many of these activities have fizzled out leaving behind remote working as an enforced necessity. This is an inconvenience for many, or worse, a real concern for people’s mental health. In legal services, junior lawyers are perhaps some of the hardest hit by remote working. The JLD’s 2019 Resilience and Wellbeing Survey revealed that over a third of respondents had regularly felt negative stress as a result of work, in the month prior to completing the survey, a quarter of respondents reported experiences of severe or extreme work-related stress; around half of respondents reported mental ill health in the month prior to the survey and, alarmingly, 6% had experienced suicidal thoughts. These statistics already painted a concerning picture of the mental health of junior lawyers in the workplace, now compounded by the pandemic. Junior lawyers rely heavily on the support and camaraderie of their peers in the office as well as supervision and guidance from senior colleagues. Remote working has pulled these from under their feet. Junior lawyers report feeling isolated and unable to ask for help when they need to, something that was much easier to do when you were sitting next to a colleague. This has added to already high work-related stress levels. The social aspects of work, the chat by the coffee machine, the Monday morning greetings and low-down on your weekend and lunch time catch ups no longer exist. This makes it harder for many junior lawyers, particularly trainees, to integrate into teams, adding to the feelings of isolation. Junior lawyers also learn significantly by simply being in the office and listening to senior colleagues handle clients and manage cases. Some junior lawyers were furloughed causing further feelings of isolation, uncertainty and stress. On return to work following a period of furlough, junior lawyers have reported not being given support by employers to gradually return to work and have been faced with high workloads and long working hours as a result of redundancies made by their firms. I was furloughed for six months from March – September last year which was such a shock having not been qualified for very long. I wasn't sure from month to month whether I was going to go [sic] asked back to work so it was a really uncertain time – not knowing whether I would be able to go back but also not knowing whether to apply for another job (and also, if anything would be on the market last year). Solicitor, Private Practice
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When I came back I felt the need to prove myself after furlough knocked my confidence. And now [I have] ended up quite burned out which has made my anxiety and depression the worst [its] ever been. Trainee Solicitor, Private Practice Working from home consistently has been a challenge without a formal office environment – however it has given me flexibility and balance which I didn't think would be possible. Solicitor, Private Practice With a likely shift to more remote working post-pandemic, employers must learn from the pandemic and support the wellbeing of junior lawyers through these challenges. In the 2019 JLD Survey, over three quarters of respondents thought their employer could do more to provide help support and guidance in relation to stress and mental ill-health at work. Junior lawyers want choice and flexibility. The overwhelming feedback from junior lawyers is that they enjoy the flexibility of working from home, but they do not want to do it all the time as it has a negative impact on their mental health as well as their professional development. So access to the office is vital as well as support when working from home. How is that achieved? Employers must not simply pay lip service to employee mental health. Whilst perks like free yoga and meditation classes have a place in a firm’s wellbeing initiatives, there is little point in having these alone if junior lawyers are overworked and there is a culture where taking time out of a busy day to attend such initiatives is seen as a waste of time. Partners and senior members of staff should actively encourage junior staff to take time out and avail themselves of these initiatives as well as leading by example by taking time out themselves.
The firm has offered things such as yoga but we have too much work in the team to be able to engage with this (due to redundancies and a delay in recruiting from pre-pandemic) – so it's all a bit arbitrary. Solicitor, Private Practice Working from home it initially felt so much more difficult to seek supervision compared to asking in person, as picking up the telephone you don’t know when your supervising solicitor is otherwise engaged, while writing emails seems to take so much longer. Scheduling regular supervision sessions has made my work so much easier and I am delighted my senior colleagues continue to help me as busy as they are. Solicitor, Private Practice Senior colleagues should also be mindful that when junior lawyers are working remotely it is much harder to notice if they are overworked, stressed or suffering from mental ill health. Firms should have systems in place where supervisors and partners are actively checking in on junior staff to ensure early signs of mental ill health and stress are picked up and addressed. Junior lawyers who have had support systems like these in place through the pandemic have reported being much happier at work despite missing the office environment. Many firms have been offering staff free and confidential professional counselling sessions which can also be beneficial for junior lawyers who are suffering with mental ill-health or struggling with remote working. Legal services has always been a profession where being overworked and burning the midnight oil is considered a right of passage, something to wear as a badge of honour and accepted as part of the job. If you cannot “handle it” you were told you weren’t cut out for the demands of being a lawyer. Yet the statistics show that the badge has been worn at the expense of lawyers’ mental and physical health. As there is greater conversation and awareness of mental health there is a slow shift, with junior lawyers challenging that long established status quo and demanding work life balance and a healthier working environment. Many firms are keeping up with this demand and as a result will retain talented junior lawyers and secure a sustainable future for the firm. Firms that don’t and remain complacent will undoubtedly see talented junior lawyers leave for greener pastures. ■
Chair of the Junior Lawyers Division
BOOK Circe by Madeline Miller (Author of The Song of Achilles) Circe is currently being adapted for a TV production Madeline Miller – Circe. Circe, Madeline Miller, review: Feminist rewrite of the Odyssey turns tale of subjugation into one of empowerment | The Independent | The Independent. FILM Nomadland directed by Chloe Zhao Frances McDormand leaves her hometown after her husband dies. In her sixties, she travels around the United States, a modern-day nomad in a van. Nomadland (2020) – IMDb. PODCASTS As part of our programme of events to mark International Women’s Day, Law Society chief executive Paul Tennant speaks to vice president I. Stephanie Boyce and managing director at Thomson Reuters, Lucinda Case, about gender equality in the legal profession. International Women’s Day 2021 | The Law Society IBA free training materials on bullying and sexual harassment in the Legal Profession IBA – Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession (ibanet.org)
JLD committee members | The Law Society The Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) represents a membership of around 70,000 individuals which includes LPC students, LPC graduates, trainee solicitors, solicitor apprentices and solicitors up to and including 5 years PQE. To find out more and receive updates sign up through My Law Society. About the JLD | The Law Society LegalWomen | 25
Who is to blame for the bullies? F
ew of us have never encountered bullying behaviour in our profession. The Profile of the Profession 2018 (POP) published by the Law Society of Scotland1 makes it clear that bullying, harassment and sexual harassment are still significant issues. Thirty-four per cent of respondents replied that they had witnessed this, with twenty-eight per cent having experienced it. Whilst the majority are female that is not exclusively the case. There is a real desire for change. Accounts range from inappropriate comments through to threats of violence, with varying views on how effectively complaints were handled by the victim’s organisation. The relative positions of power are often in play here and, given the work still needed on gender discrimination, it is frequently (though not exclusively) played out between senior men and junior women. My own experience has included comments about my dress, being told I am not entitled to ask questions at meetings, being denied access to support from junior staff and having client work snatched from me. To be honest none of that much broke my stride – it rather made me bolder. But witnessing, and hearing, how other people are treated has over the years made me very angry. The worst examples directly reported to me include criticism of mistakes, due to a known disability and absences due to attending hospital for cancer treatment. The round table discussions organised by the Law Society of Scotland following POP gave further insights from across the country. In the report from May 2020, it quotes one round table attendee saying “No one was surprised by the findings of Profile of the Profession. It is surprising that people were surprised”. There is a distinct lack of reporting. The relatively small size of the profession here in Scotland might have a bearing due to fear about the effect it may have on future career prospects. The partnership model might also be a barrier if the perpetrator is a partner. Of course, many firms have relevant HR policies but what if this is not reflected in practice? Not everyone sees their HR team as an ally – perhaps again as they are principally answerable to the partners. Some behaviour is viewed as so mainstream it doesn’t even get a mention, “everyday sexism”. Putting up with public criticism, the singling out of people to “move on” and constant negativity can drive people to leave the firm or, in some cases, leave the profession. Most don’t complain as they don’t believe they will get a fair hearing and prefer to just quietly slip away. Issues for the profession are not just within firms but also with clients and in court. The #metoo movement has possibly helped to embolden victims. But clearly there is a way to go. To see the change many of us want, senior lawyers must take a lead. It is our duty as colleagues, employers and human beings. It is entirely unacceptable to be aware of such bad behaviour and
26 | LegalWomen
do nothing about it, even if that is also out of fear of repercussions. Turning of blind eyes and deaf ears goes to the heart of the problem and we must all be a bit braver. The bullies themselves are often unpleasant (and maybe their unpleasantness is a result of something in their past) but they are also often rather inadequate or a bit pathetic. Perhaps I wouldn’t go so far as to say “more to be pitied than blamed” but you get my drift. My real antipathy is towards those who facilitate the bullying by pretending it does not exist; often because the bully is seen as “important” for fee-earning potential or business generation. In raising issues myself, I have been told that I am the only person to encounter such a problem (an attempt at gas lighting which I know not to be true) or, even better, that if I modified my behaviour (he) wouldn’t be goaded into being a bully. A variant on “if you hadn’t annoyed him you wouldn’t have been beaten to a pulp”. Such weakness of leadership can change. I have experienced some really good examples. My current firm treats its people in a grown-up way and is focussed on our wellbeing. I am part of a very happy and cohesive team and feel confident that there is no such behaviour at play. I really want our young lawyers to know that they don’t have to put up with this – that their professional life can be better and that they can seek out the good places to work so they don’t give up on law as a career. At an IBA conference organised by the Law Society of Scotland in 2019 on this topic we heard from the managing partner of a Scottish firm who told of a staff engagement survey which highlighted a bullying problem in a particular area. As I understand it the person complained of was, indeed, a star performer. However, the staff members who had suffered bullying by him were considered more important and so, the star was dismissed. The positive impact on the rest of the staff was enormous and I suspect that the economic boost to the firm from a happy and engaged workforce was positive too. The IBA have recently launched some further training in this area.2 Bad behaviour can only take place if we allow it. Let’s call it out when we see it. Let’s choose our leaders carefully. Because, after all, who is to blame for the bullies? ■
Partner at Gilson Gray
1. https://www.lawscot.org.uk/media/361498/lss-pop-reportfinal-december-2018.pdf 2. https://www.lawscot.org.uk/news-and-events/legal-news/ iba-launches-anti-bullying-and-harassment-training/
Need help? T
here are numerous bodies which can assist. Some offer support for mental health issues or specific disruptions which have occurred in your professional or personal life and a few can provide financial support. Contact details for Lawcare are on page 21. Solicitors Charity The Solicitors Charity aims to provide support and assistance in times of need and to create a more resilient profession. If you need assistance contact the casework team for a confidential conversation about support caseworker@ thesolicitorscharity.org. The Solicitors’ Charity – Financial support and help for solicitors in need (thesolicitorscharity.org). Wellbeing at the Bar You can find resources and assistance if you are a barrister, clerk or staff in chambers, a student or pupil and there is advice on what you can do if you are concerned about a colleague. There is also information on some forms of financial assistance available such as the Barristers’ Benevolent Association and the Marshall Hall Trust. The Inner Temple has authorised a fund during the COVID-19 crisis to alleviate the hardship experienced by pupils and very junior practitioners who are not eligible for the Government scheme for the self-employed. Mental Health & Wellbeing – Wellbeing at the Bar
Law Society of Northern Ireland A Wellbeing Toolkit is available on good mental health and support to colleagues, their families and staff in their private and professional lives. It complements the Lawcare offering. new_4575446__law_society_wellbeing_toolkitpoc27042021. pdf (lawsoc-ni.org) Law Society of Scotland Mental health stigma and discrimination in the Scottish profession has been carefully researched and there is considerable assistance available from Lawscot Wellbeing. Wellbeing research | Law Society of Scotland (lawscot.org.uk) Law Society of England and Wales Guidance on protecting mental health and consideration of a framework for the return to office has been issued Mental health and wellbeing – Take control | The Law Society Practical framework for law firms and sole practitioners on return to the office | The Law Society Samaritans Available 24 hours a day to provide confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts. Tel: 116 123. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.samaritans.org ■ LegalWomen | 27
Support for lawyers … from those who’ve been there and got the t-shirt!
re you suffering with the stresses and strains of life in the law? Lockdown shone a spotlight on a work-life imbalance? Struggling with anxiety as we transition into some sort of ‘normal’ life? At the Carvalho Consultancy, we specialise in supporting lawyers with the ups and downs of the job and life. And we should know – we’re lawyers ourselves!
Our business support for teams and firms service includes training, HR policy advice and in-house therapeutic support for staff. We work with many of the top national law firms on initiatives that have a genuine impact on staff morale and wellbeing. Our practical support is infused with a deep understanding of the reality of life as a lawyer and demands of firms as businesses.
Who are we? Established in 2018 by Annmarie Carvalho after over a decade as a solicitor and mediator at Farrer & Co, we offer counselling, coaching and training specifically tailored to those in the legal profession. So, whatever you’re going through, whether it’s anxiety, low mood, or if you’re questioning whether law is really for you anymore, we can help.
We speak your language In addition to Annmarie, we have Tim Rice, a therapist specialising in couples and divorce and family breakdown situations. We’re also excited to now be joined by Adam Carvalho, a former litigation partner at Farrer & Co specialising in high value and complex trust disputes and private client work. Why do lawyers need our support? A legal career has unique benefits and challenges. As the profession has developed, life in the law has become more pressured, more intense and more demanding. Lawyers are often juggling caring for children (and increasingly, elderly parents) with chargeable work, BD targets and trying to get some rest. And this juggle can be particularly acute for women in the profession. With lockdown heightening these issues, the profession is now recognising that support for lawyers is no longer a luxury but a necessity. What do we do? We provide personal support for lawyers and business support for firms and organisations. We combine psychological insight, legal experience and a practical approach that busy professionals demand. We have juggled legal careers with a young family, bereavements and family issues ourselves and are passionate about bringing not just resilience but balance and even happiness into law. Our personal support services include counselling and coaching for: ■ Imposter syndrome, perfectionism, difficulty switching off ■ Anxiety and depression ■ Career guidance, whether you’re looking to diversify within the law or seeking to transition into another profession ■ How to manage high expectations from clients and boundary setting ■ Navigating complicated team dynamics ■ Support with addictions and over-attachments to work and other substances/behaviour ■ Couples and relationship problems
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■ Advising HR teams on policy and best practice on client, team and firm management, including helping staff working with vulnerable/suicidal or hostile clients ■ 1 to 1 therapeutic support for such staff members We offer popular training sessions for teams, including the following: ■ Lawyers Leaving Lockdown – how to re-integrate as a team/firm and re-setting boundaries with clients and contemporaries ■ How to persuade and influence people ■ Tackling stress and anxiety ■ Helping clients with grief and loss ■ ‘Do you have to be perfect to be a lawyer?’ Happy customers But don’t just listen to us – here’s what our clients have to say… ‘I can truly say that the experience of working with Annmarie was life-changing and now I feel I have the emotional tools to face new challenges in the future’ – AN, a client. ‘I have spoken with a number of mental health professionals over the years and my discussions with Annmarie have been by far the most helpful. She understands the pressure of a legal career in a way that other counsellors generally don’t, and she gives very helpful and practical advice on navigating life as a lawyer’ – BY, Partner at a large corporate city law firm. ‘Annmarie began facilitating our in-house counselling sessions for lawyers just over a year ago. The feedback has been fantastic and due to demand, we very quickly doubled the number of appointments available per month…. Annmarie can relate to many of the challenges faced by our lawyers due to her background as a city lawyer. This has proved highly beneficial and has contributed greatly towards the success of the service and the relationships she has forged.’ – JK, HR Manager at a City law firm. For more information on counselling, coaching and training and support for your legal business, get in touch on email@example.com. ■
Brigid Napier Napier Solicitors, Belfast
rigid Napier is Vice President of the Law Society of Northern Ireland and talks to Bhini Phagura about her career. Brigid has been practising in Insolvency and Commercial Litigation for over 30 years. She is a Licensed Insolvency Practitioner and a Notary Public.
When did you decide to become a lawyer and what were your reasons? Law was very much part of my family life growing up. My father was a lawyer in a family-run firm, which had been established by his grandfather in the late 1920s. As I was growing up, I worked throughout the summers and Easter holidays in my father’s office often undertaking clerical work and doing deliveries. I always found every facet of working in a law firm of genuine interest. Although my real passion during my youth was art and it was not until I received my A-level results that I made the final decision to become a lawyer despite receiving an unconditional offer to the art college in Belfast. How did you decide to pursue that aim? When I decided to pursue a law degree it was with the sole aim of joining and becoming part of the family practice. I was therefore very happy to study law at Queen’s University, Belfast and I focused on Northern Irish law. After completing my professional training with the Institute of Professional Legal Studies at Queen’s University on a Friday I started working in the family practice on the following Monday. What was your experience of being a trainee and junior solicitor? I think the first 5 years of being a trainee and young qualified lawyer were challenging as it was a small practice and my caseload included litigation, matrimonial, criminal, conveyancing and insolvency law. This did give me a good grounding in those areas, particularly when I went on to specialise in commercial litigation and insolvency, becoming a licensed Insolvency Practitioner in 1994. I found that working in the area of insolvency, particularly reconstruction and business recovery extremely rewarding. Why did you become involved with your local Law Society and how did you and the Society benefit from this? As a young Lawyer I was involved with the Northern Ireland Young Solicitors Association (NIYSA) which brought me into direct contact with the Law Society of Northern Ireland. I was co-opted onto a number of committees which allowed me the opportunity to understand the important role of the Society. The whole experience was very rewarding in terms of engaging with senior solicitors and representing the interests of the younger members of the profession at various levels. Following work and family commitments I once again found myself back with the Society after being elected to serve on the Society’s Council.
How and why do you think lawyers should get involved with the Law Society? Northern Ireland remains a small jurisdiction and the Law Society remains very effective as both a regulatory and representative body representing over 3,000 members. The Society is at the epicentre of the legal professions in Northern Ireland affecting change and contributing to the wider community. Solicitors can get involved by standing for Council, putting themselves forward to serve on committees, contributing to policies and consultations and feeding into the numerous solicitor groups which showcase the wide spectrum of diversity within the solicitor profession in Northern Ireland. Solicitors in NI can also involve themselves in the numerous conferences, events and social occasions which contribute to the collegiality of our profession. What do you want to achieve during your time as Vice President? Undoubtedly my year as Junior Vice President has been overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic and this will continue to impact on my Presidential year in 2022. There are many challenges ahead not least the return to ‘normality’ for everyone including solicitor firms and the Courts, but we also have to be mindful of the outworking of Brexit in this jurisdiction moving forward. I feel confident that we can meet the challenges ahead. I hope to do so as the Society marks its Centenary next year by looking forward to the next 100 years. What tips would you have for junior lawyers wanting to follow your path in the profession? Work hard, keep focussed, recognise that you will make mistakes and that is part of learning and never be afraid to ask for advice and assistance from members of the profession who in my experience have always been willing to give generously of their time and expertise. What work is The NI Law Society undertaking relating to mental health? As Vice President, I have worked closely with the President in addressing the wellbeing of the profession through his chosen charity partner, Action Mental Health. The Society remains committed to highlighting the wellbeing of Solicitors with the aim of encouraging colleagues to recognise the extent of the problems of anxiety, depression and stress which are relevant within the profession, particularly in the first five years post qualification. I look forward, during my presidential year, to continue the work and for the society to understand and address the extent of the problem within the profession, which I believe has been exacerbated by remote working and COVID-19 restrictions. The Society operates through an elected Council of 30 members, all practising solicitors, who serve on a voluntary basis. ■ LegalWomen | 29
Careers Q&A: No jab, no job? A
s we emerge from lockdown, many employees have concerns about returning to work. Blair Wassman discusses queries on COVID vaccinations and the possibility of COVID passports. Unfortunately, some employees are now facing redundancy, some after a period of furlough, leaving many employees unsure of what redundancy payments they are entitled to and how lump sum termination payments are taxed. At work, people openly discuss whether they have had the vaccine against COVID. I don’t feel comfortable with this and for private reasons I may choose not to have the vaccine when offered. If work ask, do I have to declare if I have had the vaccine? The answer is not a simple one, and will turn on whether there is a contractual duty for you to provide data (including health data) to your employer if requested to do so, or if you would have to provide this information in compliance with your implied duty to follow reasonable management instructions. Such an instruction may well be reasonable, particularly in light of the requirement under the Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974, that employees should co-operate with their employer so far as is necessary to enable the employer to comply with their health and safety duties. However, your employer will need to take care to comply with data protection laws when collecting this data. Health information is classified as “special category data” for the purposes of data protection laws, meaning your employer must comply with higher standards in relation to its processing. They must identify both a “lawful basis” for processing the data and a “condition” justifying such processing. The lawful basis will usually be that the processing is necessary to pursue the employer’s legitimate interests. The “condition” could include processing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of workers and to ensure a safe working environment. What is also apparent, is that your employer should only ask for this information if it has a clear and compelling reason for collecting it. For example, to inform and assist in their risk assessment to put safety measures in place to protect both vulnerable and unvaccinated staff. However, if they have no specified use for this information and are collecting it “just in case”, then this will not be lawful. Your employer should also tell you in advance why they want to collect this information; what it will be used for; and who it will be shared with. If you have concerns about what the information will be used for, you should discuss these with your employer. Employers will need to be careful about disclosing this information and they cannot circulate the vaccination status of all employees, unless there is a legitimate and compelling reason to do so. For example, if the employer is aware certain 30 | LegalWomen
employees are immunosuppressed, a requirement to tell them that they are working alongside individuals who have not been vaccinated may arise. However, this information should not be distributed in a way which identifies those who have been vaccinated or not. The ICO have released guidance on their website regarding collecting such data which employers and employees alike may find helpful. Whilst employers may be able to ask whether you have had the vaccine, there is currently no legal requirement to have it. Certain roles may require it, for example in the health care sector, but employers should approach making vaccines compulsory with extreme caution and properly consider the impact of doing so on the individual’s rights. If discussions are happening more generally amongst colleagues you obviously do not have to participate in such discussions, maintaining your privacy on the issue. What is the impact on work if vaccine passports are required? Whilst nothing has been confirmed, there has been talk of COVID passports or “COVID status certification” in certain industries such as the health care and sports and entertainment sectors. For example, the rumours suggest that “passports” may be required to attend sporting events, and as a result it could be that all staff working at such events may be subject to the same rules. The government has published a series of guidelines regarding COVID safety in the workplace, but no mention of mandatory staff vaccination has been made yet as a means of controlling this risk. Instead, the focus remains on other measures to prevent transmission such as maintaining distance. Employers will need to be mindful that not everyone will be vaccinated when they re-open their offices or workplace - this could be because employees have not yet been offered the vaccine at that time or for personal, religious or medical reasons. As mentioned in the previous answer, employers will need to be cognisant of data protection legislation implications as well. The COVID status certification scheme is currently under review as the government considers whether this would assist in reducing the restrictions on social contact. Importantly, they are also considering the implications of introducing this requirement on privacy, security and equality and whether implementing this certification regime would impact disproportionately on certain groups of people. In addition, compulsory vaccination could be a breach of the rights under the European Convention of Human Rights (which are incorporated into the UK Human Rights Act 1998) including
the right to respect for privacy and family life (Article 8) and freedom of conscience, thought and religion (Article 9). As these rights are not guaranteed rights and instead qualified, there may be instances where an employer is able to justify this infringement. For example, where there are no adequate alternative measures which could be put in place to mitigate the risk to others within the workplace. As the COVID status certification remains under review, the position is continuously evolving, but it seems unlikely that the government would implement blanket rules for all employees. The more likely scenario is that there would only be limited instances where it is absolutely necessary to require employee vaccination in order to protect other staff and members of the public, perhaps in the health and social care sector. As a result, employers will need to tread carefully when considering implementing COVID passports or mandatory vaccination for the reasons set out above. I am negotiating a settlement agreement where I will work my three months’ notice at usual pay and on the date I leave, I will also receive a lump sum in return for giving up any employment claims I might have. What are the tax implications of the termination payments? My employer says that the lump sum is tax free but the provisions are difficult to interpret. Termination payments may be comprised of many different sums, and their tax treatment will depend on how they are categorised by HMRC. Notice payments or a payment in lieu of notice (PILON) are subject to income tax and national insurance contributions, as are contractual payments which relate to either past or future service (for example, a contractual bonus payment / salary). Since April 2018, certain rules apply to pay in respect of notice periods not worked, and whether part of this sum or all of it constitutes post-employment notice pay (PENP). A special formula is used to determine what portion of this payment is PENP, if any. Given you are working your notice period this point is not covered in detail, but employees should be mindful of instances where they do not work their notice period and receive a contractual or non-contractual PILON payment or a lump sum payment, and whether part of this payment may be PENP. The Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003 (ITEPA) provides for certain exemptions when you receive a noncontractual payment from your employer in connection with the termination of your employment. Such payments are exempt from income tax and national insurance contributions up to an amount of £30,000. This includes statutory redundancy payments and enhanced redundancy payments. For example, if you receive a lump sum payment of £35,000 the first £30,000 would be tax-free, and the remaining £5,000 would be subject to deductions for income tax and national insurance contributions. If you are being asked to accept a lump in return for waiving your right to bring any employment claims, it is likely that your employer has asked you to sign a settlement agreement (previously known as a compromise agreement) recording this waiver. If so, the good news is it is a legal requirement for you to seek independent legal advice on the terms and effect of the settlement agreement. In doing so, your legal adviser may be able to assist you with the tax implications on the amounts offered. Employers will often offer a contribution towards the fees in seeking such advice. In certain instances, you may want to consult with a tax or pension specialist where the tax implications are particularly complex, for example, if you participate in a defined benefit pension scheme.
Another consideration when deciding whether to accept a lump sum payment in exchange for waiving your rights, is whether you are receiving payments in addition to what you would ordinarily be entitled to in law, and what the value of the lump sum is compared with the value of possible claims. Your legal adviser will be able to help you ascertain the value of the offer, and whether you ought to be signing the settlement agreement. ■
BDBF Employment Law All questions are published anonymously. If you wish to submit a question, please send it to Coral@ LegalWomen.org.uk. No individual replies nor advice can be provided.
Advice on interviews from our Editorial Board: What soft skills should a candidate demonstrate? Christina Blacklaws: For me the most important skill (I actually don’t like to call them soft skills as I think this is undermining of their importance!) is that of self-awareness and insight. If a candidate cannot demonstrate these skills then that’s a big red light for me. One-way candidates can successfully do this is through open, honest answers about their own journeys in relation to diversity, equity and inclusion. If a candidate can evidence awareness of their own biases and how they have attempted to address then, I am usually impressed! Alison Atack: The business of law is all about communication – interpersonal skills with clients and colleagues, oral and written. An ability to build relationships is vital, so listening, understanding and inspiring trust. Evidence of resilience and self-confidence help you stand out from the crowd. It’s a challenging career, be prepared to explain how have you developed these skills? Teamwork is vital but you will have to use your own initiative, make quick decisions and cope with heavy workloads. What are your coping mechanisms to time & risk management, use of technology and problem solving? Make sure you have appropriate responses with examples. Karen O’Leary: In an interview, I look for a candidate who enjoys / values working with people, whether it is their colleagues or clients. I consider if they have curiosity. How flexible and agile are they in their thinking, how do they approach problems, can they reverse and approach from a different perspective? The skills which are sometimes lacking are: ■ Willingness to continue learning ■ A n ability to challenge themselves e.g. going outside their comfort zone professionally and culturally. ■ Time management, especially for younger candidates, the balancing of competing interests to get tasks done and manage everyone’s expectations. ■ LegalWomen | 31
There’s no escaping the Hard Market. “Hard market”- What does this mean? The insurance market has recurring periods of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ conditions. A hard market materialises when insurers are paying claims with a reduced amount of premium coming in. Insurers cannot make a profit, forcing less profitable insurers out from the market. With competition decreasing the remaining insurers can raise their premiums. Hard markets have many driving factors which include natural disasters around the globe and outflow of capital from the insurance industry. In the UK, the tragic Grenfell Tower fire dramatically affected the Professional Indemnity market, seeing rates increase with harder to place construction risks.
not commercially viable to trade. Preparation is key, start the process early, align yourself with the right broker and build the best market presentation possible.
The solicitor’s Professional Indemnity market is the toughest it has been for many years. Insurers have pulled out with restrictions tightening. There are a limited number of insurers in the market for sole practitioners doing a high level of conveyancing and other higher risk disciplines. As a result, firms of all sizes have been hit with increased premiums and less choice.
Placing solicitor’s Professional Indemnity insurance is a job for experts. At Brunel we have over 450 law firm clients of all sizes trusting us to support and guide them through their PI renewal. We have a fully dedicated, legally qualified in-house claims and technical team. We also have strong relationships with partner firms specialising in training and advising solicitor practices on strategic and operational risk management. An example of one of these would be Thirdfort who specialise in mitigating identity fraud using their innovative app. Brunel Professions have been able to negotiate reduced PI premiums providing the law firm can demonstrate they are utilising the app. Being a fully independent PI specialist allows us wide access to the solicitor’s market which is essential to secure good terms for your renewal.
The key to achieving better terms is to present your firm in a positive light. First impressions are so important in these hard market conditions. If a poor presentation is handed to an underwriter it can mean the risk is either instantly declined or a rate is applied which is
Call our expert Ben Lewis for more information on 0117 911 5796 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Brunel offer invaluable risk management advice; controlling your Professional Indemnity costs and protecting your reputation. Why choose Brunel for your Professional Indemnity insurance renewal? Independent Brunel have access to the whole of the open market, rather than a limited panel of insurers or insurance schemes. This means we can identify and secure cover for all types of legal practice, from sole traders, specialist conveyancing and personal injury practices to large multi-disciplinary firms.
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Risk Management Brunel are experienced in presenting claim records to the market and advising firms on how to improve their practice risk management – both of which are essential to secure good terms. Competitive pricing Brunel work hard to get you the cover you need at a competitive price. Brunel provide expert guidance and peace of mind.
www.brunelpi.co.uk email@example.com 32 | LegalWomen 0117 911 5796
Your cover is our business
LW blogs CAREER PLANNING Lubna Shuja, Vice President of The Law Society of England and Wales, reflects on her career so far. Legal Women is delighted to celebrate that in 2022, Lubna will be the first President of Asian heritage and only the seventh female President since The Law Society's inaugural year in 1825. Lubna Shuja (legalwomen.org.uk) Bhini Phagura discusses returning to the legal profession after a career break, securing a solicitor role at Rayden Solicitors during the pandemic and the firm’s approach to flexible working. Bhini Phagura (legalwomen.org.uk) Lydia Gu moved to London to study mathematics at UCL before deciding her real passion was law and qualifying as a solicitor. She considers: ‘Is it possible to get a Training Contract for international students?’ Lydia Gu (legalwomen.org.uk) CAREER CHANGES Kimberley Johnston talks about switching careers and countries. Kimberley has enjoyed acting, working in the U.S. political arena, being a solicitor at Linklaters and most recently as the Inclusion and Diversity Senior Manager at Lloyds Banking Group. Kimberley Johnston (legalwomen.org.uk) Jo Guy reflects on her life in law from switching careers in the middle of a pandemic from lawyer to legal tech. ‘I’ve switched from one of the biggest banks in the UK to BusyLamp, an established and scaling legal operations technology provider headquartered in Germany. I’m employed as a Senior Customer Success Manager looking after and supporting our inhouse legal clients across the UK and Ireland’. Jo Guy (legalwomen.org.uk) LEADERSHIP Identifying Leaders – making gender balance stick What techniques enable gender balance to be achieved? Helen Broadbridge
e publish blogs throughout the year so please contact us with ideas. We will be concentrating on Leadership and Founders in the coming months.
There is no single definition of leadership, but it is important to understand it is behaviour, not a position. You don’t have to be a ‘born leader’ as, with a growth mindset, all leadership skills can be learned. Dr Sally Hanna has categorised her reflections into five overlapping areas – the 5 Cs: curiosity, compassion, creativity, collaboration and courage. 5 C’s of Leadership Development (legalwomen.org.uk) WELLBEING Stress Awareness Month in the Legal World: Take time for you. Stress Awareness Month (legalwomen.org.uk) Alice Hughes Former lawyer, Charlene Gisele, discusses what lawfirms can do to improve health and wellbeing in their teams. Wellbeing (legalwomen.org.uk)
OPINION Christina Warner discusses the prevention of violence against women. The greatest of the challenges posed by the growing issue of violence against women and girls, is that of cultural expectation and customs where women’s rights are seldom warranted or considered as being valid.’ Violence against women and girls (legalwomen.org.uk) Helen Broadbridge discusses how and who volunteers for the non-profit ‘extra work’ which is needed in every office. Does volunteering impact on your career progression? Volunteering (legalwomen.org.uk) Menopause: The Basics Lauren Chiren’s personal story and tips for the rest of us. Menopause the Basics (legalwomen.org.uk)
You can find all the blogs on our website www.legalwomen.org.uk/blogs.html LegalWomen | 33
Simple Contract Law: Stripping English Law of Complexity I
n his new book, Watson-Gandy has bravely done a complete about-turn on traditional dusty textbooks, writing an illustrated guide to English contract law that is fun to read, entertaining and succinct. Synopsis of ‘Simple Contract Law: A brief introduction to English Contract Law’: This book provides an essential introduction to English contract law. Written by practising barrister and law professor, Mark WatsonGandy, whose infectious enthusiasm for the subject permeates the text, the book simply explains all the core concepts and leading cases and what the most common terms and conditions actually do. Whether you are a law student, businessman or an international lawyer, you will find “Simple Contract Law” to be an easy-to-read, concise, and informative first guide into the subject. Enlivened by the colourful back stories to the case law and with witty illustrations by Gordon Collett, this book is a welcome antidote to stale traditional contract law textbooks. “People don’t realise quite how important English contract law is for us all. English contract law has long been the preferred
choice of law for international contracts – often even where the parties or transaction has no connection to the UK. The UK legal services industry is worth £60 billion to the UK economy; the UK legal services market is the largest in Europe and second only globally to the USA. Three quarters of those using London’s commercial courts during litigation come from outside of the UK” explains the author. “I wanted to write something which would cut through the complexity, to give an accessible overview of the law. A quick and easy-to-read guide like this is long overdue.” ‘Simple Contract Law: A brief introduction to English Contract Law’ is available now for £9.95 on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3kbb6Q4. ■ Professor Mark Watson-Gandy K.S.G is a practising barrister at Three Stone Chambers in Lincoln’s Inn and has appeared in high-profile cases in the UK and abroad. He is a Visiting Professor at the University of Westminster and at the University of Lorraine in France. He was made a Knight of the Order of St Gregory the Great in recognition of his work as a barrister and law professor in 2007. In 2020, he was appointed as one of the UK Ministry of Justice’s “Legal Services are Great Champions” to promote English legal services internationally.
Reach new clients with Clio + Google My Business
hen looking for legal services, 57% of consumers search on their own, relying heavily on online search. This happens even more during recurring national lockdowns. Since Google owns more than 90% of the global search market share, having a Google My Business profile ensures you show up where today’s potential clients are looking – online. Meeting clients where they are searching is essential for lawyers to efficiently and effectively grow their business. Google My Business brings a professional presence to channels that your clients are already familiar with. Although having a Google My Business profile doesn’t mean you’re going to get a tsunami of leads overnight, it will help establish your reputation as a trusted business in your local community when you may not be able to meet clients face-to-face. As a leading provider of cloud-based legal case management software, Clio knows that having a reliable stream of clients coming through the door (even if it’s virtual) is essential for any firm to succeed. With Clio’s Google My Business integration, you can create and manage a free Google Business Profile for your firm from directly in Clio. This allows you to reach an untapped client pool. Having a Google My Business profile also gives search engines another “vote of confidence,” indicating that you are who you say you are. This makes search engines more likely to reward your website with better results in their search queries, making it easier for potential new clients to find you. 34 | LegalWomen
Finally, since reviews still reign supreme when hiring a lawyer, with over half of prospective clients saying they use internet searches and review sites to help make a decision, you need to make it easy for prospective clients by having reviews appear next to your Google Business profile. You can also increase those Google ratings by sending clients a review request link that’s specific to your firm. Be proactive by asking for a review from every happy client, so that if a negative review comes along, it’s far outweighed by the good ones. To learn more about how Clio can help you grow your law firm, visit www.clio.com/uk. ■
Technology, Transparency and Business Development suggest new Senior Law Firm roles
aving been asked to contribute to Legal Women for the first time, I felt compelled, if possible, to tie in with at least one of this edition’s themes but further, to women in law. No pressure then!
management should be looking to how to regain lost ground when normality resumes. Technology may well be part of the new normal, and it will reduce costs, but law firms need to be forging new relationships and sources of new business.
The new Standards and Regulations of 2019, indeed, all the changes in the 2016-19 regulatory cycle, including Transparency, were driven by genuine consumer research. The ability to offer non-reserved activities via separate businesses and the option to operate as a standalone solicitor, came seven years after firms had the option, post Legal Services Act, to involve non-solicitors in the management of firms.
In my first-hand experience, financial advisory firms we work with are giving new prominence to the ‘business development’ role. Much of this work is to build strong connections with accountants and solicitors to refer their clients to and to receive referrals from. Every financial adviser I know, when meeting and factfinding a new client, will be asking them if they have Wills and powers of attorneys in place, but which solicitor will be the recipient of the resulting recommendation?
However, I do not think I will open myself up for legal action, were I to suggest that the solicitor profession is not renowned for their innovation, but I sincerely hope this is changing. Changing because the options to adapt are there, changing because of competition and changing because of the pandemic and the increased use of technology. And, I might add, as we have seen women solicitors surpass their male counterparts, perhaps change in the last year, has also been inspired by ‘The Women in Law Pledge’.
Now is the time to employ or promote a Business Development Manager or Director, with the responsibility for building new relationships and open new channels of business introduction. From my experience, particularly in divorce and separation and dealing with elderly and vulnerable clients, it is female lawyers who seem to have far more interest in the interaction between their advice and the need for linked financial planning so might well be best qualified and interested in this responsibility.
In 2021, on the back of changes on the regulatory landscape and post (we hope,) pandemic, there are certainly opportunities to embrace change and technology further. With my business consultancy hat on I believe these opportunities could well tie in with the Women in Law Pledge suggestion of having an action plan towards gender equality in senior management. I believe this as I would be advising law firms to be considering two new senior roles.
Your market is too competitive and the modern client too discerning, to work in the old ways. If you wait for new clients to come to you, you may have a long wait and your business may stand still or worse. Therefore, the management roles for those with the responsibility for attracting new enquiries via your website and seeking new sources of recommendation and referral are too critical to be ignored. ■
With the focus by the SRA on Transparency, the penny must be dropping just how important it will be this year to embrace the thinking behind the rules and go much further. This is all about how modern consumers source and find legal services on the internet. We live in a Google Society and the first point of research is your website. Therefore, the individual responsible for modernising your internet shop window is critical. Ensuring the services, you wish to promote are explained clearly, the value evident, the key staff involved, and their qualifications and expertise apparent and client testimonials current. The new SRA pilot with independent price comparison and review sites makes this role ever more important.
Managing Director, SIFA Professional
Your search for the right financial planning partner starts here.
Secondly, as solicitor firms have suffered, as all professional advisory businesses have, throughout the pandemic,
Visit sifa-directory.info/jan21 for more information. LegalWomen | 35
36 | LegalWomen
Legal Indemnity Insurance That Puts YOU in Control G
uaranteed Conveyancing Solutions (GCS) is a market-leading provider of legal indemnity insurance for ‘residential’ and ‘commercial’ properties and ‘developments’. As a recognised long-standing company with a great reputation for speed/service, it’s no wonder we’re trusted by over 20,000 conveyancing professionals throughout the country. The key driver of our business is to constantly evolve and develop our offerings to meet the demands of our conveyancers, whilst also ensuring that the process of obtaining legal indemnity insurance is simple and effective.
For example, GCS ‘Online’ generates quotes in seconds which can be issued instantly or saved to your account where they will be waiting for you, ready to be issued whenever and wherever. Electronic policy documents are sent the moment you issue, and users have the choice of an ‘Individual’ or ‘Group’ account option. GCS Online is accessible from anywhere 24/7, making it the ideal solution for those working from the office or from home.
In addition, if you prefer hard copy policies, our legal indemnity insurance ‘Pack’ offers the same instant cover and is just as easy to use as GCS Online. Policies are presented logically in a smart, easy-to-use folder. Alternatively, if you are unable to find the cover you are looking for ‘Online’ or in our ‘Pack’, or if you simply want GCS to issue policies for you, directly from our office, our ‘Bespoke/ Direct’ services is for you. Our highly experienced and friendly underwriters are always happy to help – simply phone or email and leave the rest to us. To register for GCS ‘Online’, to request a GCS insurance ‘Pack’ or to view an example list of our policies, please visit www. gcs-title.co.uk. To obtain a ‘Bespoke/Direct’ quote or for any further enquiries, please contact us using the details below. ■
GCS ‘Online’ Total Flexibility. FULL Control. Comprehensive legal indemnity insurance for ‘Residential’ & ‘Commercial’ properties. Have the flexibility of an ‘Individual’ or ‘Group’ account. INSTANT cover in minutes – without referral
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gcs-title.co.uk 01435 868050 firstname.lastname@example.org
Guaranteed Conveyancing Solutions Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England and Wales no. 3623950. Registered office: GCS House, High Street, Heathfield, East Sussex, TN21 8JD
LegalWomen | 37
Advertisement Feature – Quill
In conversation with Jay Bhayani I
n 2021, it’s anticipated that two new law firms will open every working day. To help these budding startups to get their businesses off to a flying start, Quill caught up with its long-time client, Jay Bhayani at Bhayani HR & Employment Law, to share her wisdom on the practicalities of setting up a law firm. Tell us a little about yourself and your practice Bhayani HR & Employment Law is a niche practice offering straightforward employment law advice along with outsourced HR services. I launched the business six years ago and have grown to such an extent that I now have offices in Sheffield, Leeds, London and, most recently, Leicester. Was it a smooth transition from partnership to sole proprietorship? In a word, no. My original business plan was based on an agreement with the managing partner of the firm I was leaving whereby I’d arranged to take my team, clients and precedents with me. Unfortunately, this plan didn’t materialise. The agreement fell apart because the partnership took umbrage with my leaving. I left with absolutely nothing and ended up with a 4-year trademark dispute over my name. Resultingly, I started completely from scratch on my own with not a single piece of paper, renting a small windowless unit off a dual carriageway somewhere. I did lots of crying and lots of planning. Although it felt far from it at the time, my previous firm actually did me a favour as I built a business fit for its time rather than relying on what I’d always done. I was also more determined than ever to prove to myself and others that I could succeed. How did you go about building a business from the ground up? I took measured risks, some of which were personal risks such as the trademark dispute which was costly, and thought carefully about whether I was taking the right steps at every stage of the journey. Plus, I worked hard. Even though it was exhausting, the hard work was more fulfilling and rewarding because I was doing it for myself. My only regret is wishing I’d set out on my own ten years earlier when I was in my early 40s with more time and energy. How important is technology to running your business? I’ve always had a physical office and I’ve always had a remote working infrastructure. There are some big draws to having an office, for example giving credibility to potential clients and distancing life at work from life at home. Likewise, I’m a fan of remote working and I’ve made this option available for employees from the outset. I have to confess, I didn’t have a clue about technology but quickly discovered the benefits of cloud software. As long as I have access to a phone or laptop, I can see time recordings, outbound expenditure, inbound fees due and cash flow generally. The same concept applies to my staff who are currently spending only one day per week in the office with the rest of their time working from home. This single day in the office gives my employees the chance to collaborate, supervise, file and organise anything that can’t be done at home. It gives me the chance to check in with them and ensure their wellbeing isn’t being unduly impacted during these Covid times. It’s Quill’s cloud practice management and legal accounting software that allows us to operate in this truly flexible way. 38 | LegalWomen
As an outsourced service provider, do you advocate the outsourcing model? From day one, I’ve been both a supplier and consumer of outsourcing services. Being a complete novice regarding financial management and compliance, I instructed Quill to handle my legal cashiering and payroll with the compliance responsibilities that accompany these jobs, for instance, client account management and bank reconciliations. I simply wouldn’t have known how to deal with any of this. As a new business, it’s vital to concentrate on servicing clients and instruct help elsewhere. It would be impossible to replicate Quill’s services inhouse because of its vast collective experience and knowledge in these heavily regulated functions. Outsourcing is a no brainer. Why would any business owner waste their management time on tasks outside your specialist areas when they could be charging a good rate delivering legal services instead? Outsourcing costs far less than paying for someone in-house and outsourced suppliers have far more expertise than one person doing the role. Outsource to a company that understands how law firms operate and you’re at a real advantage. Do you have any parting tips for entrepreneurs? Before going it alone, work out your relationship with the firm you’re leaving so you know your starting point. Plan based on what the reality of your situation is whilst being adaptable and prepared to change as your business progresses. Get the right technology in place for remote working capabilities but don’t completely rule out having a bricks-and-mortar office as well. Serviced offices are readily available and you don’t need a huge space unless you have lots of staff. Speak to cloud software providers – Quill included – about technology. At the same time, play to your strengths and outsource to cover the skills you lack. Again, using Quill as an example, this could be legal cashiering and payroll support. In Bhayani Law’s case, this would be outsourced HR support. With solid foundations in place, there’s nothing you can’t achieve with resilience, dedication and hard work. Success is yours for the taking. ■ About Jay Bhayani – Solicitor & Managing Director Jay is a specialist employment law solicitor and leads the HR & Employment Law Team. She has over 25 years’ experience in dealing with all aspects of HR and employment matters and specialises in complex and sensitive issues. The Firm’s innovative Watertight fixed-fee HR support package is a costeffective solution that provides complete peace of mind for clients. This, together with her energy and enthusiasm is a winning approach. In addition to her legal work, Jay is an ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ at Sheffield Hallam University and a member of their management school advisory board, a past member of the Law Society’s Women Lawyers Division Committee as well as a mum of two teenagers! About Quill Quill helps law firms streamline and run their practice better by providing simple and easy-to-use legal accounting and case management software, as well as outsourced legal cashiering services. Get in touch for more information about Quill’s practice management software and outsourced legal services by emailing email@example.com.
Shred paper-based conveyancing, completely.
Digital conveyancing is more secure than paper-based processes. Tear outdated paper-based conveyancing processes to shreds. Digital conveyancing means onboarding clients electronically with eCOS, integrating LMS for automation of priority searches and AP1 registration, digitally signing HMLR deeds, and accelerating and automating creation of your report on titles with Property Report. InfoTrack is the only platform that enables a completely digital conveyancing process, end-to-end. Give us a call or email us. But, please, don’t write a letter. InfoTrack; the home of digital conveyancing. Join the digital conveyancing movement with InfoTrack. Call us on 0207 186 8090 or visit www.infotrack.co.uk/nopaper LegalWomen | 39
40 | LegalWomen