THE BUSINESS OF LAW
Celebrating a century of women in law P10 Baroness Hale
The magnificent President of the Supreme Court, and inspiration for all
P14 Elizabeth Johnson
The first female CILEx appointed to the Judiciary
Lightfoot The female futurist on women in law, lawtech & leadership
Emma Waddingham This issue is an unapologetic celebration of the achievements, inspirational initiatives and progress for women working in law in the last century. Since 1919, women have overcome significant inequalities and often injustices in practice to pave the way for female legal professionals today and tomorrow. We have already witnessed the ‘firsts’ – the first women to take senior roles in law - and read the 2018 statistics that evidence more women entering the law and qualifying than men. Not that we should celebrate an imbalance on either side but it does prove that the influence and determination of the women of our past is paying off – albeit 100 years on! There is still so much to do. Women are not fully represented at senior levels, in partnerships or on the board of directors, for a variety of reasons. Magic circle firms recently reported that just under a third of the partners appointed this year, are female. In addition to roles outside of the profession, such as motherhood, the idea that women need to push themselves forwards, to be bolder and less modest, appears time and time again in this celebratory issue of women in law. Attitude is something Baroness Hale (page 1o) has by the bucketful. I don’t need to
tell you how magnificent she is and what a wonderful example she has set for women. I was honoured to speak to her to help Modern Law mark the first centenary of women in the profession. I greatly admire her no-nonsense approach that helped get her where she is today (as well as being incredibly talented). “We just got on with it,” she told me. Perhaps, despite the need for more agile working solutions, greater flexibility and increasing examples of senior women in the law, we also need to remind ourselves to push forwards, to be more confident in our own achievements and ensure we receive recognition, when it’s deserved. Equality isn’t simply about doing ‘what is right’. There are many valuable reasons why the legal sector must ensure we have a wide range of diverse thinkers who can offer creative and varied solutions for clients. Lawyers are, after all, problem solvers. One growing area of the business of law is Legal Design and LawTech. Chrissie Lightfoot, one of the leading legal female ‘futurists’, told me (page 20) she sees more women than men enter Legal Design and LawTech, as well as join hybrid and / or virtual firms. Charles Christian (page 63) reminds us of the women of the past who have set the bar for technological innovation
so it wouldn’t be the first time that women are shaping the future. Technology offers a new pathway for women in law – as well as for men. Women are thinking creatively about how to achieve a work-life balance and if agile, hybrid firms or entrepreneurship, works for them. If that’s the case, then traditional law firms may need to think again about their slow-to-invest stance towards technology. Fewer women leading high street firms could limit choice of advisor and solutions for consumers. Baroness Hale rightly points out that the sector is trying. The young women I meet want to be led by example. I’m conscious to set an example for my daughter and ensure she has confidence in her own abilities. Of course she’ll need to work hard and earn merit, where it is due, that’s important. I am privileged to be a women and a mother in 2019 and can’t wait to see how the women of today continue to shape the future for our daughters. I am incredibly proud of this, my last issue of Modern Law as Editor. I hope you enjoy too! Emma Waddingham Co-Editor, Modern Law Magazine. 01765 600909 email@example.com www.modernlawmagazine.com
Editorial Contributors Bronwyn Townsend, Marketing Executive, InfoTrack UK Colin Fowle, Managing Director, Blue Car Technologies Collette Allen, Head of Client Services, SmartSearch Darren Gower, Marketing Director, Eclipse Legal Services David Seager, Managing Director, SIFA Professional Dr Matthew Terrell, Head of Marketing, Justis Fareeda Jaleel, Marketing Director, Frenkel Topping Jacqueline Harvey, Senior ATE Underwriter, AmTrust Law Joanne Powell, Costs Lawyer, Burcher Jennings
ISSUE 42 ISSN 2050-5744
Kathryn Thomson, Commercial Director, VFS Legal Funding Kay Toon, Account Manager, Geodesys Melody Easton, Marketing Director, DocsCorp Nicola Wilson-Sanders, Key Account Manager, tmgroup Rose Jinks, PR & Marketing Manager, Unoccupied Direct Sarah Beard, Recruitment Consultant, JMC Legal Recruitment Stephen Griffiths, Tax Director, Griffiths Allen Tara Seewald, Director, Business Development Client Services, Wilson Allen Yvonne Hirons, CEO & Founder of Perfect Portal
Co-Editor | Emma Waddingham Co-Editor | Poppy Green Project Manager | Martin Smith Events Sales | Kate McKittrick
Modern Law Magazine is published by Charlton Grant Ltd ©2019
All material is copyrighted both written and illustrated. Reproduction in part or whole is strictly forbidden without the written permission of the publisher. All images and information is collated from extensive research and along with advertisements is published in good faith. Although the author and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in this publication was correct at press time, the author and publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause.
Matthew Kay The future is female but the future is freelance? Matthew Kay, Vario from Pinsent Masons, provides the perfect scene-setter for our women in law celebratory issue.
Baroness Hale The Right Hon Baroness Hale of Richmond DBE, regarded as one of the most influential women in law, explains the importance of a representative legal sector and how she hopes to inspire young lawyers.
Elizabeth Johnson The Present: Elizabeth Johnson is the first female Chartered Legal Executive (CILEx) professional to be appointed to the Judiciary. She shares her candid and reassuring tale of progress for both women and CILEx professionals.
Chrissie Lightfoot The Futurist: We met with female futurist, Chrissie Lightfoot, to see what lies ahead for women and the impact agile working has on law firms.
100 years on Christina Blacklaws, The Law Society of England & Wales
Driving diversity & inclusion in the legal services sector Sally Al-Saleem, The Legal Services Board (LSB)
New ways of working bring new opportunities Jane Malcolm, Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)
Vibrant opportunities for all Rebecca Marsh, Legal Ombudsman (LeO
At the forefront Dave Seager, SIFA
Empowering the workplace Bronwyn Townsend, InfoTrack UK
Think differently Kathryn Thomson, VFS Legal Funding
Top priority Colin Fowle, Blue Car Technologies Limited
Upholding Gender Diversity in Principle & Practice Tara Seewald, Wilson Allen
KEY CONTRIBUTORS EDITORIAL BOARD
EDITORIAL BOARD CONTRIBUTORS
An AmTrust International Division
Diversity matters Fareeda Jaleel, Frenkel Topping
Equal pay – the fight continues Sarah Beard, JMC Legal Recruitment
Leading the way Joanne Powell, Burcher Jennings
A smarter way of working Collette Allen, Smartsearch
Getting the balance right! Melody Easton, DocsCorp
Who inspires me? Rose Jinks, Unoccupied Direct
Diversity by design Dr Matthew Terrell, Justis
The turning tech tide Nicola Wilson-Sanders, tmgroup
Spotlight on: Kay Toon Kay Toon, Geodesys
Worried about SDLT submissions? Stephen Griffiths, Griffiths Allen
Girl power Modern Law speaks to two ambassadors for women in law, who support and develop women at all levels in their organisations.
Break the networking laws! Christie Guimond, She Breaks The Law
Operating at all levels Michelle Peters ,The Business Instructor
A Charter for Success Sally Penni FRSA, Women in the Law UK
Be flexible, reap the rewards Cath Bell, Ignition Law
Legalex 2019 Modern Law took part in the action and came away with a few essential snippets from attendees.
Put a woman in charge of it (and most other things) Charles Christian, Founder of the Legal IT Insider
Case study – Eclipse Proclaim PG Legal selects the Proclaim Practice Management system to enhance client care and support growth.
Dynamic Champions Maxine Park, DictateNow
10 Minutes With… Rachelle Sellek, Acuity Law
EDITORIAL BOARD CONTRIBUTORS
The Artificial Intelligence in Legal Services Summit Implementing the report of the Technology and the Law Commission 4th June 2019, Central London The Summit will be the official launch of the final report from the Technology and Law Commission investigation into the use of AI in the justice system, a collaborative programme which has drawn together the insights from industry, academia, political science, civil society, law enforcement and regulators. It will also look towards the wider impacts of AI on the legal system, including future skills, impacts on legal services, business models and the future role of businesses in society. Hear from The Rt Hon David Gauke MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice and Christina Blacklaws, President, The Law Society
“In a report last year from legal recruiter Major, Lindsey & Africa, it was also revealed that female partners earn 24% less than their male counterparts.”
Matthew Kay The future is female, so is the future freelance? Matthew Kay, provides the perfect scene-setter for our women in law celebratory issue with an in-depth example of how law firms are creating a new, truly flexible working environment for all staff, with the added benefit of supporting female staff – especially in senior roles.
On the Basis of Sex, the biographical drama depicting the early life of now US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been recently released in the UK and comes at an apt time, as we celebrate 100 years of women in law. In around 200 days (on 23 December) we will see the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919. This law allowed women to enter the legal profession for the first time, after a long, drawn-out battle for this right.
“To quote Ruth Bader Ginsburg, ‘Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception’.”
For example, Pinsent Masons allows employees to work flexibly and was recently named as one of the top ten employers for Working Families. The firm also seeks to tackle gender imbalance throughout its partnership and senior positions at the firm through ‘Sky’, which includes training around unconscious bias, better support around parental leave and clear pathways towards developing careers.
Working differently Up and down the country we will see a number of events held by The First 100 Years project, backed by the Bar Council and Law Society, celebrating this landmark and how far the profession has come in the last century. For example, last year it was reported that the number of female solicitors in the UK outnumbered men for the first time. According to the Law Society’s Annual Statistics Report for 2017, female lawyers make up 50.1% of the UK’s 139,624 practising certificate holders.
The challenges that remain – and how to overcome them However, a milestone like this also inevitably focuses the mind and gives pause for reflection – although we have come a significant way in 100 years there are still a number of challenges for women in law and change isn’t happening quickly enough. In the same report from the Law Society it was revealed that women are still not properly represented in the upper echelons of the profession and improvement is slow – with just 2% more female partners in 2017, meaning 8,241 female partners, compared to 19,884 men. In a report last year from legal recruiter Major, Lindsey & Africa, it was also revealed that female partners earn 24% less than their male counterparts. It’s clear that more action needs to be taken to ensure barriers to progression are removed to create a level playing field for all. Law firms are increasingly implementing positive measures to ensure talent is properly supported – from junior lawyers through to those taking a career break and beyond.
The world of work is also evolving to create an environment that is better suited for everyone – not just women – with more flexibility and agile working increasingly being recognised as a very viable alternative to the nine-to-five. Developing technology and the necessity for businesses to be responsive to change has increasingly led to alternate working patterns. At Vario, flexible working is a way of life. Working as a contract lawyer means that you can benefit from more control over your work life balance, whilst also not letting your career stand still. The flexibility of contracting is a clear draw for many, but it is actually the variety of work which many contract lawyers enjoy. Working for a whole host of different businesses, on projects ranging in length from six to 18 months means that lawyers can diversify their experience and gain exposure to a wide range of sectors. Another obvious benefit of working this way is how family friendly it is. With the opportunity to work from home, parents can take an active role in raising their young children, or dependants, without having to temporarily or permanently put their careers on hold. We see contracting as an excellent way to diversify the legal profession by offering another way of working and it is certainly gaining traction as more and more lawyers are looking into flexible ways of working.
Our stories Elaine Quinn, a litigator, started working as a Vario in 2013 and within weeks she was working full-time in-house for six months, which was a great transition into freelancing. It also helped Elaine realise she wanted to work part-time and flexibly so that she could explore other interests. She said: “I had developed a strong interest in contemplative practices and was exploring their integration with law and legal practice. Working part-time as a freelance lawyer with Vario gave me time to research this, and eventually develop The Conscious Lawyer platform. I would not have had the time or energy to do this with full-time work. “For five years, I worked as a freelancer and enjoyed a great level of freedom in my work life. I would say that it helps to be self-motivated, open, friendly, and commercially savvy to do well. It also helps to enjoy being self-reliant and adapting to new situations. Essentially, it is about being entrepreneurial. We must self-manage our own time and finances - this is likely the steepest learning curve for lawyers because we become so used to having that done for us. “Above all, we need to develop security from within ourselves rather than from external factors such as job title and the amount of money we earn. More and more young lawyers are moving away from these as guiding criteria for happiness in any event. “I love the quote: ‘Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive’. Many traditional law firm norms and practices have become stifling to creativity, innovation and basic wellbeing. If you have a hobby or passion that you would love more time to pursue, freelancing is
“Working as a contract lawyer means that you can benefit from more control over your work life balance, whilst also not letting your career stand still.”
WHAT MAKES A GOOD CONTRACT LAWYER? Not everyone is suited to a life in freelance law – some will always prefer working in private practice. But if this career path does appeal, how do you know it’ll suit you? And what makes a really good contract lawyer?
a great enabler of that. In my experience, it will positively inform and improve your law practice and in some cases the two may merge which is even better. “For now, I have returned to a permanent position but would not hesitate to return to the freelance world again in the future should the need arise! I can see the freelance model becoming more and more the norm.” A large number of our Varios work as contractors so they can also concentrate on other passions or their family life. Another of our Varios, Zoe Harris, joined so she could fit a full-time legal career around pursuing her passion for acting. In her own words, Zoe explains her experience of freelancing; “I have found that through freelancing, I reexperienced enjoyment for law. Working full-time as a lawyer, the hours can be long. As a Vario, I can dictate my hours and my work-life balance is fantastic. The scariest thing with freelancing is you are required to go into a business for only a few months at a time, especially when you don’t know how the business works. Vario only put you up for assignments which they know that you’ll fit in, and you have no obligation to accept any roles that you don’t want. It makes it a lot less daunting. I felt a lot more comfortable through Vario as I could meet all the people I would be working with before starting, allaying any fears so could hit the ground running.”
The contracting path is also increasingly being explored by those just starting out in their legal career. With a contract lined up for September 2019, Jaimie Hunter could have taken some time out. However, she decided to continue developing toward her goal of becoming a lawyer, albeit with plenty of time to enjoy the year ahead leading up her contract commencing. After joining the Vario bench, Jaimie became director of her own company JJH Legal Services and has been working as a Paralegal in the Oil and Gas Sector in Aberdeen. She joined Shell UK with a contract set to run until the end of the year. Jamie said: ‘It’s really given me an incredible level of exposure ahead of my training contract starting. Working within a global business that is at the forefront of development on the UKCS, at such a critical time has been invaluable experience and I feel fortunate to have gained such exposure before I commence my training contract. I’ve been dealing with a real range of people and I am learning a lot from their wealth of knowledge and experience. I feel as if I have gained so much understanding of how the business works, what the priorities are and how a well-managed legal function can have such a significant impact across the organisation’.
At Vario we have developed a personality test in conjunction with a business psychologist to ensure we are hiring lawyers who are best prepared for life as a contract lawyer. This test includes measurements of technical ability and knowledge, but also soft skills. We have found that resilience, flexibility and comfort around working with ambiguity and uncertainty is very important. Contract lawyers have to parachute into an in-house team and are expected to not just perform technically from day one, but also to assimilate with the team – this is where soft skills and emotional intelligence are so important. The power of a catch-up around the water cooler should never be underestimated. The real benefit of our personality tests, besides ensuring we hire the right people, is that we can use these profiles to ensure we match the right lawyers to the right clients. This helps ensure our Varios not only get a lot professionally from their assignments but it works for them on a personal level too. There remains a plethora of issues in the legal profession surrounding diversity and change still needs to happen to improve the number of women in senior positions. However, we are heading in the right direction and with innovations like contracting, and initiatives like The First 100 Years (which is launching a new project, The Next 100 Years), the focus is firmly on total equality in the profession. To quote Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception”.
is the Managing Director of Vario from Pinsent Masons.
Baroness Hale Modern Law was honoured to speak to The Right Hon. Baroness Hale of Richmond DBE, an inspiration for many in the legal industry, particularly women. Baroness Hale speaks of the significant changes for women in the profession since her time at the Bar and teaching law at Manchester University in the 1970s, to her appointment as President of The Supreme Court. We are delighted to share her vision and hopes for women with you in our celebratory issue. MLM: What was it like to be a female professional in the legal sector during your time in practice – and also in academia? Baroness Hale: You have to remember that I started out in the law in the 1970s when there were hardly any women. In my year, there were six of us studying law at Cambridge, and when I went to teach at Manchester there were more women students than on the staff. Most of the sets of barristers’ chambers in Manchester had one female barrister; I was the second in my chambers. There weren’t a lot of us around. I think we just got on with it! We took it for granted that we were, as yet, a rarity but hoped that we would not be a rarity in the future. I simply got on with doing the best with both the jobs I had, at the Bar and teaching law. There were one or two prominent role models for us, particularly the great Rose Heilbron who was one of the first two women QCs who took Silk in 1949. Rose practiced on the Northern circuit and was, during the 50s and 60s, one of the star barristers of the day. She showed us that it was possible to be a successful woman lawyer. That really helped. At the time, the law was the next profession that young women went into, after medicine, the caring profession and teaching. In the 1970s, women began to get interested in law in a big way. The numbers of young women studying law increased dramatically. But you have to remember that the 1970s were a time when all sorts of other things were improving for women. There was the Equal Pay Act in 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act in 1975 and there were various things that improved life for women in the home. One way or another, the late 60s and 70s were a revolutionary decade for women in the law. MLM: How have things changed for women in law? Baroness Hale: A lot more women have gone into the law over the last 50 years. We now have more women qualifying as solicitors than men; roughly equal numbers of women vs men qualifying as barristers. What we have not seen so much of is women reaching top positions,
“We have to encourage women to think broadly about the range and number of opportunities there are to them.”
either in solicitors’ firms or at the Bar. However, things have improved dramatically during this century, particularly the number of women QCs, which has increased by a percentage point per year for the last 10 or more years. Women are now demonstrating that they can make a success of legal practice and reach the highest levels, which must be hugely encouraging to the young women who are coming along behind them. That doesn’t mean to say that it’s not very difficult. It is hard to combine practice in some of the major solicitor firms or practice in certain sectors at the Bar, with other responsibilities. That’s why, in the law as well as other professions, there is an attrition rate. It does mean that a lot of women find themselves not necessarily leaving legal work but translating into different sorts of legal work, for example, private or public sector lawyering but not independent practice. We have to encourage women to think broadly about the range and number of opportunities there are to them. Both sides of the profession need to find ways to tackle this, but let’s give them credit, they’re trying to! MLM: What impact does the disproportionate number of female judges have on the legal process and on the public?
“…the values of the law are justice, fairness and equality so it’s quite a good idea if the Judiciary reflects those values!” 11
Baroness Hale: It is very important that the Judiciary should be more reflective of the society it serves than it currently is. Half the population are women and so we need to have more women at every level of the Judiciary but we also need more people from ethnic minorities, more people from different educational and professional backgrounds – a whole range of diverse experiences. That’s for quite a lot of reasons. Firstly, the courts serve the public and the public ought to feel that the courts are their courts, not an elite body that’s there to lay down the law that affect them. Members of the public should be able to go to court and be sure they’re understood and heard.
Secondly, the values of the law are justice, fairness and equality so it’s quite a good idea if the Judiciary reflects those values! Thirdly, there are a lot of able women and other under-represented groups out there and their abilities should be recognised and taken advantage of. It’s a disadvantage if ability is not properly recognised. The final, fourth point is that diverse courts can, from time-to-time, make better decisions. That’s why it’s important at all levels of the judiciary, particularly important at the higher levels of the Judiciary where decisions are made by panels of three or five or more people. The whole theory of panels is that more minds are going to produce a better result than one mind. If all those minds have the same outlook on life, the same background and the same experience, then that argument doesn’t have as much force as if they have different backgrounds, outlook and experience.
“We need to think imaginatively about how we can best discover the talent that is out there.”
MLM: Technology & Agile Working: Do you think these have a role in supporting promotion, sustained senior roles for women in law? Baroness Hale: I can only observe here. The possibilities for distance working are enormous. You can be a partner in a London
MLM: You’ve been described by junior lawyers (and others) as a ‘rock star’ of the profession. What legacy do you hope you have left for young people? Baroness Hale: I do try to get out and about as much as I can, alongside the demanding day job that involves a lot of judging and looking after the court. I visit as many lawyers’ group and universities as I can to lend encouragement to young people of all kinds – but perhaps particularly to young women and other less well represented groups. I want to show that if I can do it, well then so might they be able to. That’s really important, to lead by example. That I hope is a legacy I have left, a legacy of approachability, friendliness and nonstuffiness - and broaches, definitely (and a few important decisions, of course)!
MLM What tools can we implement to allow more women into senior roles in the legal sector, specifically the Judiciary? Baroness Hale: I’m not in favour of quotas because I think the Judiciary has to be appointed on merit, to appoint the right people for the job. Quotas can make either the person concerned or other people think that they haven’t been appointed on merit – that’s bad all round! It’s particularly bad for the person who has been appointed, who may fear that she’s been appointed for all the wrong reasons. However, I don’t think there’s anything wrong in having targets; aspirational views about what you’re trying to achieve and having strategies for trying to achieve them. What do we need to do? Firstly, we need to encourage diverse candidates to think of themselves as candidates and equip themselves to make applications, and then put in those applications. We have been seeing a lot more of that. Secondly, we need to enable those who judge applications to recognise merit and potential where merit there is. This may involve modifying some of the traditional assumptions about who gets what sort of job and the qualities needed for a particular sort of job. We need to think imaginatively about how we can best discover the talent that is out there.
firm of solicitors and conduct most of your practice from hundreds of miles away, as technology enables you to connect with people and run your documentation without actually being physically present. This is beneficial for women in particular who are looking for an alternative. There is no doubt that technology and agile working have a part to play in improving equal opportunities.
The Right Hon Baroness Hale of Richmond DBE
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong in having targets; aspirational views about what you’re trying to achieve and having strategies for trying to achieve them.” 13
Brenda Marjorie Hale, Lady Hale of Richmond took up appointment as President of The Supreme Court in September 2017, succeeding Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury. This followed her appointment as Deputy President from June 2013. In October 2009 she became the first woman Justice of The Supreme Court. She retains her links with the academic world as Visitor of Girton College, Cambridge, and Visiting Professor of Kings College London. She previously served as Chancellor of the University of Bristol. A home-maker as well as a judge, she thoroughly enjoyed helping the artists and architects create a new home for The Supreme Court.
Elizabeth Johnson Elizabeth Johnson is the first female Chartered Legal Executive (CILEx) professional to be appointed to the Judiciary – two fantastic diversity success stories in one. Emma Waddingham, Modern Law, spoke to her about her legal career, why it’s critical for women to boost themselves (and each other), and how she intends to take advantage of her new-found ‘first’ fame. MLM: Why did you choose to enter the legal profession and why the CILEx route to qualification? EJ: By the age of around 13 I knew I was going into journalism or law. I got the opportunity to do some work experience at a law firm at the age of 15, at a firm called Merricks in Ipswich. Merricks specialised in acting for insurers defending construction and injury claims. I was incredibly lucky; a partner took me to the High Court during my work experience and I was hooked! The following summer I returned to Merricks as an office junior and spent every summer thereafter with them. Four years later, I collected my A Level results. I was working in the firm at the time, so I’d taken time off to go and collect them. I was all set to head off to University to study law when one of the partners told me about the CILEx route. They already had a number of very successful Cilex qualified lawyers at the firm, as such they knew how well that option worked for both the individual and the firm.
“Men and women are different. I don’t want to be a man. I’m very proud of being a woman and I think I bring a unique skill set through being a woman.”
They expected nothing less than excellence at all times, but more importantly created a team culture in which I felt supported and valued. I did work incredibly hard, but I found the work rewarding and enjoyable. I was never treated any differently from the solicitor-qualified lawyers that sat alongside me. I must have done something right, as I was promoted to the role of Technical Support Manager, supervising a team of 20 paralegals. I know some CILEx lawyers come across the old fashioned attitude that their qualification is less well regarded and that they are ‘only a Legal Exec’. I suppose I’ve been lucky that the firms I have worked for over the years have never made me feel that way. Having said that my sense is that I have always proven my worth through the work I do. If you work hard and produce excellent results then clients and colleagues don’t really question your route to qualification, you prove your competency in everything you do. MLM: Did you ever feel the need to requalify as a solicitor? EJ: No. By the time I was qualified, I had bought a house and I was well on my way in my career. I was already working on interesting cases and had respect and encouragement from the firm as a CILEx, I couldn’t see that cross qualifying would change or improve that.
Having enjoyed my time with them, I was impatient to start working. My parents were not particularly wealthy and I knew that University would be a financial struggle. When he explained the option of being able to work and study at the same time, I jumped at the chance. The firm not only employed me but also funded my studies. I absolutely loved it.
MLM: Did you ever feel, as a woman in a senior role, that you were treated any differently or that there was a limit to what you could achieve?
Within a year I was sitting behind a QC supporting junior counsel on a six-month arbitration, involving a contractual dispute arising from the construction of Canary Wharf. I was very lucky to be supported and encouraged in that way right at the start of my career.
EJ: In all honesty, no. I think the same applies to whether I felt treated differently because I was a CILEx lawyer. I don’t think I ever have felt that in my career. If I have, well, you just grit your teeth and work that little bit harder to prove the naysayer is wrong, don’t you?
MLM: What happened when you qualified? EJ: When I qualified, after six years, I thought it was time to spread my wings. I moved onto Wansbrough Willey Hargreaves (now DAC Beachcroft) in Birmingham.
For most of my formative career, for the middle to senior level, I was working with women. I am aware that some senior women have a reputation of pulling up the ladder behind them. I haven’t come across that. My supervising partner at Beachcrofts, Lorraine Carolan, was very supportive. She was demanding, a stickler for detail, but at the same time incredibly supportive and enabling. She worked hard and had high
I joined a team led by two impressive female partners (Lorraine Carolan and Sara May) who together ran the Personal Injury Unit. They set the bar incredibly high, leading by example. But their work ethic fitted well with my own.
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expectations but did so with great humour and was loyal and supportive of her team. I’ve realised over the years that being a good manager is difficult, but she made it look effortless. There were a lot of women at Beachcroft when I was there who were in senior positions and, of course, all of them were incredibly bright, powerful women. They very much led by example. MLM: Were they more sympathetic to some of the issues that affect women, and offer more flexibility to those around them; for example, to working mothers? EJ: They were certainly flexible but I don’t think they expected any less from you. They both had children and recognised the need for flexibility, they were very much ahead of the curve in that sense, but then in return they benefited from a loyal team that worked very hard. The ideal scenario for anyone is simply to have an employer who treats you like a grown up, granting flexibility when you need it, knowing that in return they’ll have your loyalty and commitment at other times.
“I didn’t go looking for barriers. I suppose I trusted the process; that if I was good enough, I stood as good a chance as anyone else to be appointed, regardless of my gender or qualification.”
MLM: You have a family as well as a busy legal career; what else helped you to do more? EJ: I have three children, the youngest was born in the year 2000. Technology has helped a huge amount in the last 10 to 15 years. It can be a curse to have emails feeding into your phone late at night but it’s also quite helpful to improve flexibility. I’ve always worked full time and I’ve got three children. There are times when it’s been a real challenge and a real struggle. You tell yourself that you’re not really doing either role properly but you just have to do your best. What’s the alternative? MLM: Absolutely. We women often beat ourselves with a massive guilt stick! EJ: Yes, it’s that guilt complex; that you’re never doing enough or doing it properly, but I’ve realised over the years that everyone feels this way. When my youngest was very little, I worked from home for five years. That mattered to me because with three children, I thought I needed to be there more but, equally, I didn’t want to sacrifice my career progression. Now the children are older, they don’t need me quite as much. That allowed me to look at what I wanted to do with the next 20 years of my career. MLM: Why did the Judiciary appeal to you? EJ: I’ve realized that as you progress in a traditional private practice firm, the more of a ‘salesman’ you have to become, to generate work. I’ve never particularly enjoyed that part of the job. What I enjoy is the law and people. I was
“Perhaps women don’t regard ‘partnership’ as an important step in their career, perhaps their sense of fulfillment comes from more than just status…or perhaps women need that extra push and encouragement, to stop being so modest.” 17
looking for something that sparks a reconnection with what I loved and this awareness dovetailed beautifully with an email from CILEx asking if members knew that CILEx professionals could now apply to be a judge. I expressed an interest and then attended an evening seminar for a pilot judicial appointment scheme, which aimed to attract applicants from CILEx backgrounds. CILEx invited 10 people to join the scheme, where judicial applicants would be mentored and supported in their preparation and application. I knew that the chances of being successful were very low but as I would say to the kids: ‘You don’t know until you try’. Having decided to apply I threw my heart and soul into the preparation, my husband said that at time it felt like I had a second job! The Judicial application is all about commitment, with no guarantee of success in the end. You have to keep your chin up really and keep going, even though you know it might not happen. CILEx gave us a fantastic opportunity during the scheme in the form of a judicial mentor. This was truly brilliant and I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. I was matched with CILEx-qualified District Judge Stephen Nicholls. Stephen had cross-qualified as a solicitor and practiced in personal injury law. He was so supportive and helpful. I sat with him for four days over a 12-month period. He was very thoughtful in the type of case he exposed me to, so I saw a great variety. He gave an honest view on whether he thought I was suited for the role and he read over my application form, giving me a great sense of reassurance before taking the plunge and applying. He’s very modest when people ask him about it, but I do owe him a debt of gratitude because of the time he spent with me. MLM: Are there any barriers to women who consider applying for the Judiciary – or senior roles? EJ: Personally, I didn’t go looking for barriers. I suppose I trusted the process; that if I was good enough, I stood as good a chance as anyone else to be appointed, regardless of my gender or qualification. I’m fiercely optimistic. I tend to plow on and trust that the good will rise, that talent and hard work will be recognised. Although there is no doubt that you have to put the hard work in; you can’t just stumble through life with blind optimism. I got to meet the other nine people on the pilot scheme and the majority of them, around twothirds, were women. In terms of private practice, I’m an Associate at my current firm and there are far more female Associates than men. However, not so much at the partner level, which is a bit disappointing – and irritating! Frankly, there should be more female partners across the board, considering the number of women who have entered into law over the last 20 years or so.
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MLM: That may change with the next generation but do you think there’s a particular cause for the lack of female partners today? EJ: I don’t know whether women are getting the right encouragement. I suspect that if I’d stayed at somewhere like DAC Beachcroft, where I had two very powerful women to be my mentors and role models, then I might have considered partnership. They were the kind of women that would have pushed me to apply. Women have a habit of being more modest and not applying for partnership or other senior roles until they’re sure they’re going to get it. I had a similar conversation with a male partner recently, I asked him: “Why aren’t there more female partners?” He trotted out the same old comment: “With women qualifying into the profession in increasing number, it will change”. But I was told that 10 years ago! Where are these 10-year qualified solicitors now? Why aren’t they partners? Women have been coming into the profession at sufficient numbers, for sufficiently long enough that they should be equivalently represented at partner level.
“I’d love to capitalise on the attention and really drive the message home to women – and men as well – that we should be applying for these roles, because we are good enough.”
I’m not sure I have a ‘one size fits all’ answer for why they aren’t. Perhaps women don’t regard ‘partnership’ as an important step in their career, perhaps their sense of fulfillment comes from more than just status. Women do tend to still be the primary carers for children; does that conflict with the point in your career when promotion begins to happen? Or perhaps women need that extra push and encouragement, to stop being so modest.
valuable skills to bring to any position of influence or power. Why would you exclude a skill set from the top table when it has value? I understand how incredibly difficult it is to have a full-time job and young children. Having both has taught me so much about prioritising and work/time management. Most mothers (and many fathers) live and breathe it and then just think it’s normal. It’s not at all. It’s a really impressive thing and a valuable skillset for any organisation. MLM: What do you wish you had known earlier in your career? EJ: Hindsight’s wonderful, isn’t it? I’ve always been quite a perfectionist and perhaps put very high expectations and demands on myself, in everything I do. It does take its toll. I should have been gentler on myself on occasions. It’s okay to cut corners and give the kids fishfingers and chips for tea! You can run yourself ragged trying to achieve perfection in everything you do. MLM: How are you coping with all the attention of becoming the first female CILEx judge? EJ: I had no idea I’d be the ‘first female CILEx judge’ – nor did I anticipate the profiling that would come with the appointment. When I shared the good news with my family, my daughter (a very ‘pc’ 18 year old) said: “That’s really cool mum, really impressive.” I realised then how powerful ‘being the first’ would be for other female CILEx professionals and for young women in the profession. There is a perception that the appointment process favors barristers, that’s not my experience.
MLM: Do you think enough women are entering the Judiciary?
I’d love to capitalise on the attention and really drive the message home to women – and men as well – that we should be applying for these roles, because we are good enough.
EJ: It depends what you mean by ‘judiciary’. From what I’ve seen at the ‘entry level’ of DDJ or Fee Paid Tribunal Judge, there are plenty of women.
MLM: Do you aspire to mentoring others?
You do see female solicitors, being elevated up to high court level, which is really encouraging. Then, of course, we have Baroness Hale who is frankly an inspiration. She’s such a wonderful role model for women and so modest.
EJ: Yes. I would love to do more of that – especially working with younger lawyers and students in local schools. I’ve always been involved in community projects and enjoy mentoring and supporting junior practitioners.
Generally I think I’m optimistic, but I still don’t see a great deal of racial diversity, which is depressing!
I’d like to share my experiences and any advice I’ve picked up along the way. It’s really important to inspire and inform young people on the realities of work in the legal sector, to make it less exclusive. Then perhaps we can aspire to true diversity in the profession.
MLM: How does diversity in terms of gender make a difference in senior roles? Why is it important to have more women in senior roles, other than it being ‘right’? EJ: Diversity is so important in every organisation. Men and women are different. I don’t want to be a man. I’m very proud of being a woman and I think I bring a unique skill set through being a woman.
is a Chartered Legal Executive and Associate at Ashfords LLP. She was appointed as a Fee-paid Judge of the First-tier Tribunal, assigned to the Social Entitlement Chamber in January 2019.
Having children also puts a different perspective on your personality and your life skills. These are
Chrissie Lightfoot What kind of legal roles and legal practices are women looking for in the future? Are agile firms benefitting and how will this affect traditional law firms? Emma Waddingham, Modern Law, met with our favourite female futurist, Chrissie Lightfoot, to see what lies ahead.
MLM: You have a fantastic insight into legal firms, all over the world, as well as the future of the business of law. How are things really looking for women in the sector? CL: It all comes down to having the right attitude – with some supporting infrastructure. Even for women who know there are barriers, it’s not stopped those really ambitious women who are trying to push through or who want to do things differently. In particular, I’ve seen a huge rise in the number of women joining new boutique law firms – especially virtual ones that allow you to work from home. Women are also leading those boutique / virtual firms. However, this is often harder than it seems. You need to get the funding to set up and there are statistics that suggest it’s harder for women to get investment. I’ll elaborate on that later.
“Many women are now looking to… be more agile and give themselves the freedom to have a family, varied lifestyle AND a fulfilling career in law.”
The women in law span the generations, from those in their 20s to more experienced ladies in their 50s and 60s. With the firms I work with, I typically see a mix of genders on internal committees, outside of partnership; the balance of women and men on those committees is pretty balanced. In fact, certainly in the last two years, I’ve had more discussions with ladies who are looking to push things forward in their law firms, those who are going to make a difference in their business, now and in the future. This could be circumstance, or the fact that women are drawn to other women, but I certainly wouldn’t suggest that the drive to progress is a male-only thing. In terms of partnership though, it’s still not a 50, 50 split. Recent research by The Law Society suggests this too.
That’s why we’re starting to see an increase in the number of lawyers, particularly females, choosing to join non-traditional firms when they return to work. That’s not to say that men don’t choose these firms as well, because we know they do.
It’s not a surprise to find couples working in virtual law firms because they can attain their desired lifestyle together; it’s hard to stay in the traditional law firm environment where they have set hours and have to be ‘seen’ at the firm, and have a family. MLM: Will that have a knock-on impact on traditional law firms? Will high street firms struggle to attract and retain talented lawyers if they can’t compete with virtual / more agile firms? CL: Yes. I think so. If mid-sized and lower-end firms don’t take ‘agile’ on board, then they will lose talented individuals to firms like Keystone Law or other competing alternative legal service providers who can offer that flexibility. They are much more attractive because the more agile alternatives have the technology in place that makes it easier to work on the move or at home. A piece of research with a report was published a few years ago by George Beaton, which suggested that the way lawyers were going to work will change and traditional law firm structures as we know them were going to shrink, because alternative legal service providers are going to provide a much better and satisfying way of working’. We’re starting to see this shift. Unless the mid-size law firms get on board then yes, I suspect they will experience a talent drain. MLM: What kind of impact will this have on clients?
MLM: Why do you think this happens? CL: I do hear that a lot of ladies, once they’ve had one or two children, don’t go back into a traditional law firm or work full-time – for a variety of reasons. A lot of them choose to do part-time legal work or work in a hybrid law firm like Keystone, Obelisk, Halebury or gunnercooke. Perhaps they find it easier to juggle family with their legal work this way, whereas if they’re trying to work full time and long hours in a law firm, then it doesn’t really work. Many women are now looking to work in a more creative way, to be more agile and give themselves the freedom to have a family, varied lifestyle AND a fulfilling career in law.
Many men are also opting for a different work-life balance, perhaps because they want to take an active role in their family life.
CL: It will potentially skew the client base for traditional firms. If talented individuals move and work under a different umbrella then it will affect the makeup of what’s left in the law firm. It may affect the law firm’s offering and ability to service their former clients, particularly if they lose lawyers that have expertise in niches.
“I’ve certainly seen more women moving into legal technology recently.” 21
Let’s assume it’s the ladies who are leaving as they’re looking for a more agile working environment. What you’ll be left with is a greater number of men in traditional law firm setups. That can’t be great. Women buy legal services and some may actively want to work with a female lawyer. It would reduce choice for the buyer. That said, technology is non-gender specific, isn’t it? When you look at how buyers of legal services
want to access legal support today and tomorrow, there are a number of buyers who are happy just to use machines as much as possible. Some might want a mix – to use technology as much as possible, joined by human interactions. Again, it means firms need to invest in technology to support their mixed gender client base, as well as enable their lawyers to work differently.
It’s really about behaviour change. From a lawyer’s perspective, this means thinking: “Are we ready to start working in a more efficient way, and in a more commercial way? Can we get an income from a product rather than just income from a traditional human advisory way of doing things? Can we afford to stay the same?” At this point in time, we’re at the very early stage of that behavioural change by lawyers and clients but the awareness is there, and building.
I think it’s critical that buyers have a choice. One of the biggest ‘hits’ in terms of pages on a law firm’s website is their people or team page. Legal purchasers want to know whom they will be working with, and the gender decision is going to pay a part in that – unconsciously or otherwise. MLM: How do you think technology might (in particular) help women to progress their careers in law? CL: We all know that technology helps lawyers to work faster, better and more efficiently. All laws firms will have some form of workflow, e-discovery, case management, CRM or ‘information rich’ solution, such as Peppermint Technology, Juta, Lexis Nexis and many more we could mention. Even just basic technology systems help make the job easier. There’s nothing more frustrating for a lawyer than working with a system that’s difficult and awkward, one that wastes their time, because (obviously) they want to spend their time on client work. I still see too many firms that have invested in technology that doesn’t work for them, but they stick it out because of the historic investment (and contractual obligations). They may (and do) loose excellent lawyers because those practitioners feel hindered to do their job properly, and feel like the lack of technological support holds them back. Talented and ambitious lawyers will no doubt continue to look for firms with more effective solutions in place.
“There are investment companies that are only actively looking for female entrepreneurs and female founder CEOs and want to back them.”
It’s really very important to have those quality, efficient streamlined systems in place, including those that integrate well with other systems. I often see issues here – that firms use a myriad of platforms that don’t talk to each other.
I believe the use of automated products, such as document automation, expertise automation and RPA in a variety of forms and offerings, will become mainstream in the next five years. Buyers are used to using a machine for some services, rather than humans. We’ve seen HMRC move to digital, businesses are experienced in working online and many commercial entities want to be able to do more for themselves – so long as they’re supported by human lawyers when they need it. Lawyers are using the same technology; searching, solving or creating something in seconds or minutes that would have normally taken many hours. MLM: Will everyone embrace it, in the end? CL: I believe that the Law firms and lawyers that embrace technology have a greater chance of succeeding in the future. Most firms are already transitioning along with buyers’ behavioral changes and in line with lawyers’ demands for flexibility. I’m confident small law firms and even individual lawyers in virtual firms or self-employed are going to start introducing automated products too, even though the majority of their current clients aren’t demanding it. It’s inevitable that more lawyers and clients will embrace LegalTech and LawTech as it’s a win-win for everyone. The legal sector is highly competitive and the UK and global market now too open to ignore the potential and necessity of embracing the myriad of technologies. MLM: Technology allows law firms to disaggregate legal workflow. How does this help women? CL: You’re quite right, and it’s already happening in other industries. This is an essential step forwards. We’re now seeing hybrid lawyers who are doing a mix of practice and management. This offers women more choice. We’re also seeing women using their human lawyer legal skills together with technology too. An example is Aosphere. Aosphere is working on projects with Allen and Overy’s lawyers, helping with ideas and technological initiatives using legal design to
Technology also enables the client to do more, if they want to. This frees up the lawyer to work on meatier tasks and projects. Some law firms provide services that are expertise automation products. These are ideal for clients who are happy to do some things for themselves, instead of a human lawyer. The client might then go to the human lawyer for additional service or added value and support beyond using that automated product.
at how men work and how women work, combined with the hours that men work and the hours that women work, irrespective of what they’re paid. It suggested that women work more hours than men. My attitude is: if you’re going to be the captain of your own mothership, you have to go out there and create opportunities for yourself. The only way that you are going to feel fulfilled and have self-worth is to be prepared to put the hours in; as long as you feel you’ve been remunerated fairly for them. If you’re not, find somewhere else or do something that will reward you for your efforts.
help make their lawyers more efficient whilst also creating client-focused solutions. I was asked to speak to the Aosphere group last year and expected a room full of men; it was fabulous to engage with an audience of 28 women out of the 30 attendees. They meet and share their experiences in person at an annual event, to touch base and network. On a day-to-day basis, Aosphere members work from home, throughout the UK, developing projects for exciting international clients. Women are definitely being more dynamic and enterprising, thinking about their skills and how to apply them in a different way, at different stages of their career. This might be to do something different than lawyering in the traditional sense. Some may opt to become a judge, but others step into a business development, Knowledge Officer or technical role. I’ve certainly seen more women moving into legal technology recently. MLM: You mentioned earlier that women struggle to secure financial investment in their business plans. Why do you think this is? CL: Despite the fact that many entrepreneurs are women, investment funding is still favored towards men than women. A recent statistic from a PitchBook report reveals that out of a 100% pot of funds, 89% of all-male teams secure investment; 10% goes to mixed gender teams but only 1% of all-female teams achieve investment. That’s not to say women like me and others haven’t succeeded in acquiring investment, we have, but when you look at it, you’re starting with an uphill struggle if you’re female. It’s not to say you can’t succeed. Will it get easier? Hopefully so. But where you have adversity and may be disadvantaged, I always see opportunity. For example, there are investment companies that are only actively looking for female entrepreneurs and female founder CEOs and want to back them.
“Women tend to be a lot more open to suggestions from other ladies and once we have that confidence, there’s no stopping us! It’s really great to see.”
What is crucial really is that women are really good with doing more with less. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why forward-thinking funders see women as a good investment. It’s not that we’re not risk-averse; we’re just a lot more sensible and talented at being the greengrocer.
Although we shouldn’t get hell bent on comparing ourselves with men, I have seen an increase in women groups that are helping other women to do more – to get that senior job, to move into the legal tech space or to seek funding. As a woman, I think it’s important to have female mentors and confidants. It’s equally important to embrace mixed networking groups as well. It helps you to be confident AND have a safe space to talk about some of the issues that might affect women more than men. A lot of women lack the confidence that men have. Men have a natural boldness, whereas we women often feel we have to wait for somebody to tell us that we have the ability, that we are good enough etc. Women-only groups are really good at helping with that. It’s inspiring to see other confident women and see they’re doing well. I often sit with other women and remind them: “Look, you can do this, you’ve got the ability, you’re far better than some of the male counterparts here…You don’t need that pat on the head to go out and achieve, you can do this.” The conversation then turns to ‘OK, how did you get to where you are now?’ and ‘do you think I should do this or that?’ Women tend to be a lot more open to suggestions from other ladies and once we have that confidence, there’s no stopping us! It’s really great to see.
is CEO of EntrepreneurLawyer Limited: leading female legal futurist, international keynote speaker, consultant and mentor, qualified (non-practicing) solicitor, woman entrepreneur, women’s enterprise ambassador and LawTech investor.
The reality is also that women do work much harder with less support. I read a fascinating statistic the other day, a report that looked
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100 years on
Law Society President, Christina Blacklaws, reflects on 100 years of women in the law. 019 is a significant year for women in the law, marking 100 years since the passing of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act.
The 1919 act finally allowed women to qualify as solicitors and barristers, sit on juries and volunteer as magistrates. The profession has made great strides over the past one hundred years, but women are still not reaching senior levels in equal numbers to men. In 2018, 62.1% of new entrants to the profession were women yet they still only comprise 30.1% of partners in private practice. Over the past year, the Law Society has held nearly 250 roundtables with women and then with male champions to discover and address the barriers to women’s career progression. We conducted the largest ever international survey on the topic of women in the law with nearly 8,000 responses from men and women in the profession and are releasing a series of reports with findings from our roundtables. From the survey and the roundtables, unconscious bias, unequal remuneration and a need for greater flexible working all emerged as key issues preventing women progressing. Of all these obstacles, unconscious bias was named the biggest barrier with 52% of respondents to our 2018 survey said it prevents women from reaching senior leadership positions. I personally facilitated more than forty roundtables and heard so many women across the country and in now 17 other jurisdictions, tell stories of how they had been treated less favourably by clients and colleagues on account of their gender.
“If flexible working is to be effective, it must be extended to everyone – regardless of their seniority, gender and caring responsibilities…” These biases become even more apparent when gender intersects with other protected characteristics. In 2018, only 4.7% of partners in private practice across England and Wales were BAME women. Women with more than one protected characteristic – such as BAME women, those from the LGBTQ+ community and women with disabilities – experience multiple barriers to progression making it even more difficult to reach senior positions. It is not the women that need fixing but the system and for these statistics to change, partners – both male and female – need to lead by example and advocate strategies which combat unconscious bias and encourage diversity at every level of business. Historically, the majority of leaders in the law have been men and male partners have an important role to play in bringing this vision to life. As male champions for change, male leaders can help to hold other men accountable and advocate for a more diverse, dynamic workplace which nurtures both men and women’s career progression. Unequal remuneration also emerged as a significant barrier to women’s progression – 60% of respondents to our 2018 survey
reported a gender pay gap in their organisation but only 16% saw visible steps being taken to address this. To achieve equal remuneration, pay structures need to be made more transparent to ensure all employees are fairly rewarded and feel comfortable negotiating their pay. Many law firms still have a strong culture of presenteeism and some 91% of respondents to our 2018 survey cited flexible and agile working as key to improving diversity and gender equality in the profession. If flexible working is to be effective, it must be extended to everyone – regardless of their seniority, gender and caring responsibilities – and partners must lead by example and show that it is the quality of the work rather than the hours spent in the office which matters. Having the right policies in place and setting measurable targets around flexible working will help to create a more inclusive workplace which suits both men and women’s working needs. For those who would like to learn more, the Law Society will be holding an international symposium on the power of gender equality to transform the business of law from 20th – 21st June 2019. The symposium will discuss many aspects of gender equality in the law and give firms, businesses and solicitors at every stage of their career the insights and tools needed to drive equality up to the most senior levels. Find out more and to book your place, please visit: lawsociety.org.uk/ international-symposium-2019/
is the President at The Law Society of England & Wales.
Driving diversity & inclusion in the legal services sector
“Inclusion is not a matter of political correctness. It is the key to growth,” Jesse Jackson, Politician and Civil Rights Activist1.
he Legal Services Board (LSB) oversees the regulation of lawyers in England and Wales and one of our objectives under the Legal Services Act 2007 is to encourage an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession. Promoting diversity will help us achieve one of our strategic objectives: increasing innovation, growth and the diversity of services and providers. However, we don’t just champion diversity because we are required to. We passionately believe that a diverse legal sector workforce is key to developing services that best serve consumers. There is a need to improve representation of certain groups entering the profession and progressing to senior roles. It is important that the profession reflects society to understand and respond to the differing needs of a varied range of clients. Evidence also shows that diversity can be a driver for improved economic performance. The LSB issued its first set of statutory guidance on diversity in 2011, which required legal regulators to collect and publish data about the diversity of their regulated community. Subsequent reviews in 2013 and 2015 revealed that significant steps had been taken in the disclosure of data beyond the traditional reporting areas of gender and ethnicity and a more robust evidence base had been developed. Good progress was made, but we knew that the regulators’ use of data would have more impact if it was applied in other ways. One size does not fit all In 2017, the LSB published revised guidance adopting an outcome-focused approach and introducing four outcomes that regulators must report on. As well as requiring regulators to continue to gather and publish diversity data, the outcomes have a broader
“The LSB provides regulators with the freedom to devise their own strategies for encouraging diversity, appropriate for their regulated community, while remaining accountable for delivering real change.” emphasis, focusing on regulatory activities, stakeholder networks and accountability. These four outcomes are to: • Continue to build a clear and thorough understanding of the diversity profile of its regulated community (beginning at entry), how this changes over time and where greater diversity in the workforce needs to be encouraged • Use data, evidence and intelligence about the diversity of the workforce to inform development of, and evaluate the effectiveness of, its regulatory arrangements, operational processes and other activities. • Collaborate with others to encourage a diverse workforce, including sharing good practice, data collection and other relevant activities. • Account to its stakeholders for its understanding, its achievements and plans to encourage a diverse workforce. By setting these outcomes, the LSB provides regulators with the freedom to devise their own strategies for encouraging diversity, appropriate for their regulated community, while remaining accountable for delivering real change.
We conducted our first formal assessment of the regulators’ progress against the outcomes and published a summary report in January this year. It was clear that overall the regulators have made positive progress against these outcomes and the LSB has agreed specific expectations for each regulator, to ensure they continue to build on their achievements throughout 2019. Evaluating changes in the market Our commitment to data collection and publication is essential to building understanding of the diversity profile of the sector. Every three years the LSB conducts market evaluation research assessing: the diversity of the profession at different levels; the diversity of different business types; the diversity of the UK for context and the legal needs and responses by diversity of consumers and small businesses. We will publish our latest findings at the end of 2019. What next for diversity? Achieving diversity requires commitment. In the future, the LSB will hold each regulator to account for meeting its diversity commitment through our regulatory performance framework. Regulators should continue to strive to improve the collection of diversity data on their regulated community, use this to shape proactive diversity policies and evaluate the effectiveness of them. In light of the market evaluation report, the LSB will consider what, if any, further action is required. 1. Source: Crain’s
is the Regulatory Policy Manager at The Legal Services Board.
New ways of working bring new opportunities The legal profession has talked a lot recently about Helena Normanton, who was admitted to Middle Temple 100 years ago to become the country’s first female lawyer, and Carrie Morrison, the first woman solicitor admitted three years later. These are markers in history that should rightly be celebrated.
he profession has taken real strides since then and is now far more representative of the communities it serves. And superficially the picture on gender equality is looking positive. When we last published our firm diversity data in February 2018, we found that 48% of all solicitors were women. So far, so proportionate. However, only a third of all partners are women, a figure that drops to 29% for bigger firms with 50 or more solicitors. Women are clearly entering the profession, but then what’s happening as they progress their careers? There are lots of theories ranging from quality of life choices to perceptions of discrimination. Good businesses want to retain and nurture their talented people and many firms are putting plans in place to address barriers to diversity at senior levels. This includes mentoring, targets for partnership, and schemes to encourage women back into work after a career break. Of course, dipping into history again, women lawyers have always been resourceful when it comes to progressing their careers. In 1860, Maria Rye opened a law stationer’s office specifically to train female legal clerks. She was followed by Eliza Orme, the first women to graduate with an LLB. She opened her own office and worked for 25 years as a quasilawyer. These were the pioneers creating opportunities for women in legal services long before the Bar and the Law Society opened their doors. Coming right up to date, women are also
“A diverse business has a diversity of thinking, helping to keep it innovative and nimble, ready to spot new opportunities.” currently under-represented in the legal technology sector but real strides are being made by enterprising individuals. New ways of doing business can help to provide flexibility. At the heart of much of this is agile working – moving away from set hours and a fixed location for an employee. Solicitors no longer need to be at the office 20 miles away at 9am just to show their face. If they visit clients, and take calls on their mobile, why do they need to be in an office? Advances in IT security keep client information safe, and allow for efficient remote working, so why add a commute into the day when you could be working? Smart ways of working mean that solicitors can add real value for their clients while supporting their family and that has to be good for all working parents. Artificial intelligence too is capable of handling more administrative tasks, freeing up solicitors for more complex work. Again, AI may well help to liberate lawyers from their office desks.
Our research in 2017 explored more fully the concept of the diversity dividend, showing that being a more inclusive employer isn’t just about doing the ‘right thing’ - there are real benefits that give a competitive edge. It is increasingly clear that an inclusive employer will attract the best candidates, allowing the business to provide the highest quality of legal services. A diverse business has a diversity of thinking, helping to keep it innovative and nimble, ready to spot new opportunities. If the make-up of its workforce reflects the community that it serves then it is much more likely to attract and retain clients too. All in all, there’s an undeniable advantage from taking diversity and inclusion seriously, not just for women but for everyone. The use of legal technology may help to accelerate change in the sector, not only in how it serves clients but in how the profession chooses to work and the business structures it wants to work in. For women, that may open up new career routes and new ways of progressing. The innovative women of the 1800s and early 1900s have set the tone and a 100 years later, many women in law are seeing a real opportunity to change the way the sector works.
is the Executive Director, External and Corporate Affairs at the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
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Vibrant opportunities for all Over the last year, the Legal Ombudsman has achieved a great deal as an organisation, with much more to do over the coming year as LeO Chief Ombudsman and Chief Executive, Rebecca Marsh, reports.
e have recently published our 2019/20 business plan and budget, which is my first as Chief Ombudsman and Chief Executive of the Legal Ombudsman. The combining of these two roles took place on the 1st April, 2019 as a result of the Ministry of Justice’s 2017 Tailored Review.
I am excited to lead the organisation forward and to build on the progress we made last year. I am particularly pleased that we were able to streamline our management structure ahead of schedule, meaning that this happened during the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919. This ground-breaking piece of legislation not only paved the way for women to become lawyers, it also enabled them to take on civil and judicial posts, and take on roles that work alongside the legal system. The anniversary of this legislation has particular significance here at the Legal Ombudsman, where 70% of our staff
are women – many of whom are in senior roles including our Chair of the Office for Legal Complaints, our Head Ombudsmen, heads of the Finance and IT departments. We have women working as investigators, researchers, project leaders and much more. Our flexible working offer supports all our colleagues with opportunities to balance home and work. Such employment opportunities were unheard of when I started my career, and it was a very stark choice between work and family. Our office is situated in the heart of Birmingham, a vibrant and multicultural city, and we are extremely proud that our workforce reflects that. We’ve encouraged and supported our staff to set up BAME, LGBT+, and Women’s internal networks. By working closely with these networks, we aim to give staff the best opportunities to develop their careers. I am extremely proud that the Legal Ombudsman is able to provide such strong and equal opportunities for women.
Although having women in senior or leadership positions is something which is becoming much more widespread in the sector, there is still work to be done. I never take my position for granted and am always looking for ways to ensure that female leadership is recognised and celebrated, and that more women are given opportunities to develop their roles within the legal sector and the Civil Service.
is the Chief Ombudsman and Chief Executive at Legal Ombudsman (LeO).
MSc in Construction Law & Dispute Resolution King’s College London - The Dickson Poon School of Law Centre of Construction Law
Applications are invited for this highly regarded post-graduate programme:
• two-year part-time, post-experience, multi-disciplinary programme for lawyers and construction professionals, now in its thirty-ﬁrst year, covering the law and its application to construction projects, practices, people and problems • four taught modules and a dissertation, including foundation modules on law for construction professionals or construction technology for lawyers • international, multi-disciplinary student cohort with strong alumni association • nine full days’ tuition each term in central London (three weekends of Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays) plus regular on-line tutorials • academic staﬀ led by Professor David Mosey, Professor Renato Nazzini and Professor Phillip Capper, supported by leading academics and practitioners • access to leading UK and international research and high-proﬁle Government and industry collaboration • specialist library resources and online facilities available to students • qualiﬁes for professional CPD and, with the additional award-writing examination, exemption from the CIArb Fellowship examination • next intake September 2019 – early applications are encouraged (ﬁrst application deadline 29 March). Applications will remain open if places are available and the programme will be closed as soon as it is full. Applicants must have a degree and/or acceptable professional qualifications plus, (for construction professionals and non-practising lawyers), at least two years’ relevant work experience; or (for practising lawyers), at least completed pupillage or one year of training contract. For further information on the Centre, or to download a copy of the prospectus, visit the Centre of Construction Law website: www.kcl.ac.uk/law/research/centres/construction/about.aspx, or contact Sue Hart on 020 7848 2643, email email@example.com. Details on how to apply can be found via the main KCL prospectus pages at: www.kcl.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/taught-courses/construction-law-and-dispute-resolution-msc.aspx MLM33 Kings College London Ad.indd 1
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is the Managing Director of SIFA Professional.
is the Marketing Executive InfoTrack UK.
At the forefront
Empowering the workplace
Whilst it should not even be a subject for debate or a major story, in June 2018, for the first time, the Law Society of England & Wales confirmed there were nearly 400 more female solicitors with practicing certificates than male, and this was 51% of the profession.
Harnessing technology to bridge gender disparity in the workplace 2019 marks the centenary of women being granted entry to the legal profession, a monumental feat at the time. Women now comprise over 50% of legal professionals in the UK, with 69% of new students accepted into law degrees in 2017/2018 comprising of females. 100 years on however, there is still disparity both in the legal profession and beyond regarding the gender pay gap and women in senior leadership roles. While there remains plenty of progress to be made in these areas, there is some good news. Winckworth Sherwood reported closing the pay gap with the firm’s female staff receiving on average 5.2% more than their male colleagues. Stowe Family Law meanwhile reported the highest proportion of female partners of all Top 200 UK firms, with 69.6%.
In my world (which sits astride the bridge between legal and financial services) and in my experience, it is old news, as I have long found female solicitors more open-minded when it comes to engaging with the financial advisory community for the holistic benefit of their clients. It may also be that female solicitors, according to the SRA’s 2017 Diversity study, are in a majority in six to nine partner firms (54%). This size of firm tends to be the size of practice targeted for partnership by SIFA Professional financial advisory firms. I have probably presented to 500 solicitors in the past 12 months on the new SRA rules, and the ‘Future of Profession’ reforms and what this means for referrals and the interaction between solicitors and financial advisers. In the course of these sessions, the majority of attendees accepting the seminar invites from SIFA firms have been female, and they seem genuinely keen to embrace change and understand that their service to their clients’ needs extend beyond the legal function or transaction.
While there has been much discussion about the barriers facing equality for women in the workplace, businesses must continue to consider how to bridge the gap. Technology growth has been rapid and is making connectivity and remote working more accessible and efficient. Roles previously requiring staff to be present in-office are being transformed by enabling more flexible working choices. Whether working mothers or caring for another loved one, women often fall into the role of primary caregivers, usually requiring an adjustment to the standard 9-5 requirements of corporate positions. Businesses are beginning to resolve this by providing opportunities for staff to work alternative hours or from home and technology solutions such as skype, email and cloud systems are making that easier without degradation to quality of work.
It is appropriate subject matter in 2019 as it is in fact exactly 100 years since the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act made it possible for women to work in the ‘law’. As we move swiftly now toward the implementation of the new SRA Standards and Regulations, the interaction between solicitors and quality financial planners looks set to increase with female solicitors at the vanguard of this movement. One area where this interaction seems particularly prevalent is in the dealing with elderly and vulnerable clients. The FCA and SRA both have superb guidelines in this arena and both solicitors and financial advisers are developing their own specialisms and services accordingly. Solicitors for the Elderly is providing advice and accreditations for solicitors operating in this sector and The Society of Later Life Advisers is doing the same for financial advisers and financial planners.
At InfoTrack, we have several working mums of young children that work flexibly to account for childcare situations. For example, one of our Senior Account Managers works remotely 80-90% of the time. This ensures she can not only tend to her responsibilities as a parent, but also empowers her to deliver the best level of service to clients. This is made possible by utilising tech tools that ensure connectivity, communication and collaboration are at the forefront to support flexible working. Not only for women but for everyone, ultimately creating a level playing field for advancement and career growth.
It is no surprise that many of those choosing to specialise in an area requiring empathy and soft advisory skills are female, and that the individuals running both organisations are too.
Firms too can be a catalyst for change by implementing solutions that ensure women are valued equally to their male counterparts. Providing opportunity for promotion and increased earning potential by adapting organisational and operational structures within the workplace will foster parity, working toward a more equal future.
“It is no surprise that many of those choosing to specialise in an area requiring empathy and soft advisory skills are female…”
“Businesses are beginning to resolve this by providing opportunities for staff to work alternative hours or from home…” 31
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is the Managing Director at Blue Car Technologies Limited.
is the Commercial Director at VFS Legal Funding.
The legal market has evolved and, thankfully, new career paths have been created that offer more opportunity to think differently and work flexibility in the sector, writes Kathryn Thomson.
Since the introduction of the Flexible Working Regulations in 2014, all employees with at least 26 weeks’ service may request flexible working. Rapid advancements in technology have made it easier than ever before for employers to implement an efficient framework for flexible working. Setting up such arrangements crucial to solving the endemic issue of diversity in the UK legal sector, as Colin Fowle explains.
When I qualified as a solicitor in 2007, I was already acutely aware of the need for commercial acumen, which is something not taught throughout education. At the time, training contracts were hard to come by and routes to partnership even more competitive. Running litigation cases on a daily basis wasn’t for me and I saw an opportunity to utilise both my legal knowledge and my newly found commercial acumen and moved to a business development role at a private bank specialising in legal funding. At the time I was the only female manager. During my time, more women managers were employed and I progressed to head up the legal funding division and to sit on the executive committee for the bank; where once again I was the only female on the committee.
Gender imbalance in the top echelons of the UK’s law firms remains a persistent problem. In 2014 the Law Society’s research suggested that whilst 57% of all trainee solicitors were women, the percentages of female partners in the City remains noticeably low at 24% (19% for Magic Circle). The UK finally adopted the policy of shared parental leave in 2015, though by itself it has done little to solve the problem as to why so many fewer women become City partners. Any parent will tell you how hard it is to balance raising young children whilst still putting in 40+ hours a week at the office. A report from the American consultancy McKinsey & Company only reinforces this theory. It suggested that ‘female attorneys feel forced to make significant trade-offs between career success and their personal lives. Only 44% of women believe that they can have both, compared with 60% of men who do’.
During my time at the bank my skills in business-to-business (B2B) legal funding were honed through product development and building key relationships. In 2014, VFS recognised my skills in the niche legal funding sector and asked me to join as an executive director after a period of consultancy. Since then the world of legal funding has grown exponentially and offers a huge amount of opportunity for law firms.
Many law firms have yet to fully embrace flexible working and a failure to implement change may result in this gender imbalance continuing. One study found that only 19% of law firms have flexible start and end times. Furthermore, for those lawyers who can work flexibly, the quality of their technology is holding them back. Research from Lexis Nexis found that 64% of lawyers found it difficult to work remotely because their technology just wasn’t suitable.
VFS specialises in providing firms with products that help bolster their cashflow, putting them in a better position to focus on their cases, rather than worrying about getting paid. Through my skills learned in private practice I am able to understand how a case is run from all sides and the resultant financial pressures and needs associated with running a law firm, particularly as the cost of disbursements continues to rise and the levels of recoverable profit costs are decreasing.
This need not be the case. Rapid developments in electronic signature technology and in online case management systems, mean that important client work can be done remotely.
I enjoy working as part of a team running the business at VFS, where I can also use my legal skills. The benefit of swifter career progression coupled with flexible working, allowing me to balance my work with my family life is invaluable, and is being seen as a growing benefit offered to both men and women in business across the industry.
It is evident that the legal industry must change with the times. Work/life balance is increasingly seen as a top priority for modern generations of lawyers. Research has suggested that up to 75% of Millennial lawyers would be willing to trade a portion of their pay-packet for a better work-life balance, more holiday or a cut in billable hours.
“The benefit of swifter career progression coupled with flexible working, allowing me to balance my work with my family life is invaluable.”
“…Up to 75% of Millennial lawyers would be willing to trade a portion of their paypacket for a better work-life balance…”
CON29DW from Geodesys. No inferring, no ignoring, no insuring.
Assessing drainage and water risk can be a tick-box exercise in some cases, but with the CON29DW you can be guaranteed a factual, reliable and secure approach. It’s a choice that impacts three separate, but connected, parties in the home buying process.
The home buyer
Although mortgage lending centres around the applicant’s level of risk, lenders are increasingly focusing on property risk as well. The drainage and water status of a property is just one of a number of issues that can affect the future value of a property.
If drainage and water issues arise as a result of not having the full picture on a property, a law firm’s professional indemnity (PI) insurance can generally be relied upon to cover the cost of any remedial work required (e.g. a new sewer connection).
At the sharp end of any decision regarding a house purchase is, of course, the home buyer. Whether it’s their dream house, a desperately needed upgrade or simply a first-time purchase, having to deal with complex drainage and water problems would be a major setback.
The CON29DW provides answers to all 23 relevant drainage and water questions posed by the Law Society. These include information on water and sewerage connections, the location of pipes and drains, and risk of internal flooding. Other Drainage and Water reports can infer and ignore answers, using insurance to cover the risk.
PI insurance, however, cannot cover the cost to a business of the time and effort required to deal with claims and the reputational damage that follows. The fact that the conveyancer went through the due diligence process is insignificant if the information and data relied upon is incorrect. Failing to check drainage and water details thoroughly could result in the homeowner having to carry out costly work in the future.
Even if covered by insurance, the homeowner still has the aggravation of sorting out an issue that could have been identified prior to purchase. In many cases, the buyer may not have proceeded with the transaction in the first place – if only they had known! A discovery after the sale can lead to the end of their hopes and plans. By choosing a CON29DW, the conveyancer can avoid exposing the buyer to risk.
A CON29DW uses all known water company information, including both free and paid-for data. This ensures that the FULL picture on drainage and water is presented. The Geodesys CON29DW presents the information in plain language; provides useful detail; includes two high-quality Ordnance Survey maps (one for water and one for waste and drainage); and uses an interactive format to make it easy for you to retrieve relevant information. Some Drainage and Water reports simply infer answers from the proximity of the pipes nearby, rather than checking the billing and connectivity data that the water company holds. Or they can ignore water company data, such as the information on whether a property is at increased risk of internal flooding. The lack of an answer to this question is often covered by insurance in some reports. Whatever the example, the home buyer, lender and conveyancing solicitor are all exposed to risk.
We don’t think inferring, ignoring and insuring is good enough. So, if you’re using any other Drainage and Water report...
CON29DW – making everyone’s job even easier The CON29DW from Geodesys offers the following key features: • a crystal-clear front-page customer dashboard highlighting information on key questions • clear identification of potential issues on the dashboard • easy-to-use interactive navigation so it’s easy for users to retrieve relevant information from the details in the report • two formats: interactive PDF and usual print format • thorough information on drainage and water legislation • a ‘plain English’ guide explaining how specific issues could affect value and further development • a modern design created by industry experts
Call: 0800 085 8050 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.geodesys.com/con29dw-goodluck
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is the Director, Business Development Client Services at Wilson Allen.
is the Marketing Director at Frenkel Topping.
Upholding gender diversity in principle & practice
Fareeda Jaleel, discusses the challenges faced by women in the legal sector and how the industry is changing to accommodate more diversity.
In my role as a director of business development client services, I work with many law firms. When it comes to a firm that treats gender diversity as a priority, I immediately think of Womble Bond Dickinson (US) LLP. Many firms have policies in place to achieve gender diversity. In my experience with Womble, it is upholding those policies in principle and practice.
Frenkel Topping specialises in protecting the assets of people who have had life-changing injuries through catastrophic accidents. Due of the nature of what we do, it is of the utmost importance that our team can relate to and communicate with people from all walks of life – regardless of their ethnic background, culture or if they have a disability.
As a case in point, Womble is in the midst of transitioning a 20-year old CRM platform, building an experience and proposal management system, and rolling it out in phases to 800 users across 19 offices. I’m the project lead for my firm and Anne Reavis, director of business intelligence, is the projectlead at Womble. That both organistions entrusted a project of this scale to us speaks volumes about their commitment to dismantling gender biases within our respective firms.
For that reason, diversity has always been firmly part of the Frenkel Topping DNA. As a business, we strongly believe in the benefits of having a diverse, inclusive team from the bottom up. According to McKinsey1, companies with women on their boards significantly and consistently outperform those with no female representation – by 41% in terms of return on equity and by 56% in terms of operating results.
Anne believes this project is testament to Womble’s dedication to diversity and inclusion – and how the legal industry is changing. “At Womble, our entire executive committee is comprised of women and Betty Temple is the first woman to be leading our firm. It shows that the face of legal is changing dramatically,” she says. “Plus, I’ve seen more and more advocacy for women in technology over the course of my career.”
Historically, the legal sector has been seen as something of a ‘boy’s club’, and the demanding hours have meant that it has often been an unrealistic career choice for working mothers (particularly those without a partner). As a parent, and I have always had to work around things like the school run, the fact that we now have platforms in place to facilitate remote working will hopefully encourage many more women with children to consider a career in the sector. We are also seeing more firms encourage flexible working, meaning that people can make their own schedules – again, a huge benefit to women who decide to have children.
I concur. I believe there’s a growing respect for women in our marketplace. Over the past 15 years as I’ve been coming up through the ranks in legal, I’ve always been under male leadership. I have found that those leaders have always been supportive and wanted me to excel. My experiences during this time have enabled me to become one of my firm’s youngest directors – the fact that I’m a woman is beside the point.
Having a diverse workforce improves understanding and empathy throughout an organisation, and our work at FTL is testament to that. As a director in the senior team, the workforce is c. 70% female – this is not deliberate, and we as a business would never look to simply ‘fill a quota’. We genuinely believe at our core that diversity is key, and we employ our team members based on ‘best fit’ in terms of culture, their ability to empathise with our clients and their understanding of why we do what we do at FTL.
I think we’ll see more and more instances where this is the norm in the legal industry and beyond. Where the best person is awarded the work and responsibility, regardless of their age, gender, or any other characteristics seen as diverse. You can learn more about Womble’s diversity and inclusion efforts on the Wilson Allen website.
When people are compromised due to a life changing accident and have injuries that will be further regressive, we have an enormous job to protect those clients. That level of emotional intelligence is crucial, alongside IQ and the ability to think laterally – traits that are unbound by gender, colour or religion.
“I’ve seen more and more advocacy for women in technology over the course of my career.”
“Having a diverse workforce improves understanding and empathy throughout an organisation, and our work at FTL is testament to that.” 37
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is a Costs Lawyer at Burcher Jennings.
is a Recruitment Consultant at JMC Legal Recruitment.
Equal pay – Leading the way the fight continues Work place culture has changed a lot in the four decades of my working life. There was (and sadly sometimes still is) a belief that if you weren’t physically present in the office at all times, it signified lack of commitment. Certainly in my early career in litigation being present was emphasised more than being productive.
In the last 24 hours, whilst pondering the current landscape for Women in Law, there have been a surprising number of breaking news stories piling into my inbox of women fighting back in the courts, taking law firms to task in huge claims over sex discrimination, race and equal pay. There have even been news stories of top tier International law firms openly admitting that they pay men considerably more per hour than women. It’s quite clear to see that never has this issue (which has been an underlying problem for decades) been so prominent in the legal sector.
However I then transferred to the world of legal costs, and immediately saw how different things could be. I was fortunate to train at a firm that was genuinely gender blind and encouraged flexible working practices. There I saw examples of men and women embracing caring responsibilities and still being valuable and profitable to the business.
Weighing up the successes, challenges and general landscape, there are many factors and considerations that arise when you begin looking at how females are currently faring in the industry overall. In recent years there have been some notable improvements which should be celebrated, but there are also clearly barriers and challenges for female employees to navigate.
I believe it is often women who have led the development of flexible working practices, aided of course by technology, and also driven in part (especially early on) by laws on discrimination. As a Costs Lawyer, I have also seen a wide range of working and charging practices in litigation, and I can see the benefits of flexibility in the same. The traditional ‘hourly rate’ method of claiming costs has for many years been considered by many to be flawed, rewarding not just complexity but also inefficiency.
Starting with the positives, 2019 marks the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act that allowed women to train as solicitors and amazingly, nearly 100 years on, two thirds of newly qualified solicitors in 2018 were women (Law Society data has revealed). This is fantastic news. However, data also showed less than a third of partners in private practice are female… so there is still some considerable work to be done to bring more highflying women in at the senior level.
Conditional Fee Agreements and fixed fees, with limited opportunity for charging more than the client can recover, have forced lawyers to focus on how to achieve the best result within a particular fee. Similar challenges result from multi track cases which are subject to costs management orders and will soon apply to the introduction of capped costs that is being piloted.
Some of the challenge’s women are facing include the lack of flexibility on offer in terms of working hours which has been a big issue for women looking to develop their careers, particularly post children. Although law firms have been relatively late adopters of agile working and there are still some who are yet to make moves to be more flexible, the good news is the majority are now being much more adaptive to modern day women and their commitments outside of work.
Clients are also becoming more ‘costs aware’ and are looking for better solutions than the simple hourly rate model, whilst still of course wanting good access to their lawyers. These challenges require firms to look at overheads as well as consider pricing practices and maximising their costs recovery. A flexible workforce who can job share, hot-desk or work from home can provide greater availability to clients, as well as being more cost effective than the traditional fully staffed office. Adopting flexible working practices as well as flexible pricing can help the bottomline, give clients a better service, and aid with recruitment and retention of staff.
Bringing more women into senior level positions will mean more role models for junior female lawyers. It’s important to build a strong network and having more females at the top will give more support and encouragement to women breaking into law. Overall the great news is there are more talented, intelligent women than ever working in law and the women making up two-thirds of newly qualified solicitors in 2018 are certainly trailblazing for a better, more equal future.
“I believe it is often women who have led the development of flexible working practices...”
“Some of the challenge’s women are facing include the lack of flexibility on offer in terms of working hours which has been a big issue for women looking to develop their careers…”
Cost effective funding for law firms • Release the cash tied up in a case • Low interest-only payments • Disbursements, court fees, WIP • Simple. Innovative. Proven.
For a no obligation discussion please call 020 3747 9333 or email email@example.com or visit vfslegal.com
is the Head of Client Services at SmartSearch.
is the Marketing Director at DocsCorp.
A smarter way of working
Getting the balance right!
I joined SmartSearch in June 2013 when the company only had 12 employees (five of which were directors). I started as a Senior Support Specialist and progressed from Senior Account Manager to Head of Client Services at the end of 2015.
You may not be surprised to learn that working mothers in Britain are stressed out. Women with two children and a full-time job are 40% more stressed than women without children and with a full-time job, as Melody Easton reports.
Very soon after I joined, it was clear to me that this was going to be a fast-growing successful business and as a driven person, I knew I wanted to be a key contributor in driving it forward.
A study published in Sociology1 earlier this year found that women with two children who were working reduced hours reported stress levels 37% lower than those mums with inflexible jobs.
My previous Account Management experience meant that I was able to pitch a strategy to better service our clients by creating an Account Management team focused on building long-term relationships. The directors immediately got on board and allowed me free reign to develop this area of the business. It’s been extremely successful, as client retention and satisfaction ratings are over 95%.
As well as being proven to reduce stress levels, we know flexibility can help improve the transition from maternity leave to full-time hours and keep skilled working mums from leaving the firm – or the workforce entirely. Flexibility doesn’t have to be a one-size-fits-all approach. In recent years, improvements to technology have made remote working an even more attractive option for both working mums and their employers.
The Directors have been extremely supportive throughout my time at SmartSearch. They always impress me with their forward thinking when it comes to caring for their employees and their generosity when rewarding them.
Remote workers have better access to critical document libraries – such as document management systems in the cloud or file sharing services like Dropbox – than they did 10 years ago. The proliferation of cloud applications across British law firms means time-saving tools can be accessed from the couch.
It is their example that I have followed in the way I treat my team. The personal recognition they give them makes my job so much easier. Everyone who works at SmartSearch knows that the company believes in equal opportunity for all and in harnessing the talent of existing employees, and know that the Directors often promote from within in order to form the management team.
Remote working is more secure than ever. Metadata cleaners for mobile devices and Outlook Web Access, for example, help staff protect sensitive information when sharing documents over email. Video conferencing apps can be configured on smartphones or tablets so conference calls and collaborative meetings can go ahead as planned.
Of SmartSearch’s 91 employees, just under half (42) are women, but of the five heads of department, three are women, and nine of the 14 managers are women. This is not because women are pushed into roles any more than men, SmartSearch simply selects the best person for the job.
The right technology doesn’t just allow people to work anywhere and at any time. It empowers them to work with the same level of efficiency as they would in the office.
The Directors have developed open communication from the top down, to ensure all employees feel valued, inspired and motivated, no matter what role they play within the company.
While I’m proud to work for a company that is investing heavily in cloud solutions, there is a roadblock facing working mothers that technology can’t fix.
This, combined with the fact that a third of SmartSearch’s leadership team are female, encourages other female employees within SmartSearch to strive for senior positions. They can see women already in senior roles, helping drive the business, and therefore know they will be given the encouragement and support that they need to succeed in the business.
Technology cannot solve the issue of a woman having two jobs: the paid day job and the unpaid evening job of running a household and taking care of the kids. Over my career, I’ve seen that a woman’s partner must support her at home if her career is to flourish. This means a more equal split of the domestic labour, so each partner can achieve their aims without facing the ‘parenthood penalty’. It’s getting this balance right to ensure working mums get the best of both worlds.
“This, combined with the fact that a third of SmartSearch’s leadership team are female, encourages other female employees within SmartSearch to strive for senior positions.”
“The right technology…empowers them to work with the same level of efficiency as they would in the office.” 41
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Dr Matthew Terrell
is the PR & Marketing Manager at Unoccupied Direct.
is the Head of Marketing at Justis.
Who inspires me?
Diversity by design
Rose Jinks presents the inspirational female colleagues that power Unoccupied Direct and its work in the legal sector.
If diversity is not part of the conversation, are we fully supporting our clients, asks Dr Matthew Terrell. As we move towards online courts, automated legal processes and public-facing legal technology, diversity by design becomes more important. We all face different challenges social, psychological or physical - which are present when we work or use products and services. The more ourselves we can be, the more honest our feedback and suggestions are. This also includes having a balance of opinions and opportunities for individuals of all genders, backgrounds and cultures.
At Unoccupied Direct, equality within the workplace is not only encouraged, it is the norm. In fact, our wider group of companies is respected in the insurance industry for progressing women to senior positions – half of our senior managers, for instance, are female. The women within Unoccupied Direct itself have been pivotal in driving our work with solicitors and the legal sector forward.
At Justis, we have a diverse team of people who, throughout our 30-year history, have influenced our direction and products for the better, and without their influence, we may not be as successful as we are today.
For example, I myself work with two fantastic female marketing writers who consistently deliver the company’s key messages to the wills and probate market, to ensure that solicitors and their clients are well aware of how we can work together, and make their lives easier at the same time.
The development of our flagship product (JustisOne) has been influenced by a diverse team of women, men, individuals who identify as LBGT+, by colleagues with varying abilities, and those who bring with them unique perspectives from different cultural and educational backgrounds.
Alongside the marketing department, Samantha Miles, our Sales Manager, leads the Business Development team to create meaningful working relationships with solicitors across the country, so that we can bring together our knowledge of specialist Unoccupied Property Insurance with legal professionals’ expertise in handling probate cases. Her experience at dealing with companies around the UK has enabled us to become a trusted provider of insurance to the legal sector.
So ask yourself these questions: Is there enough diversity in my company? Is there more that can be done to ensure we capture and understand the thoughts, feelings and needs of our clients and employees; to refine our products and services to suit a wider audience? Are our services diverse by design and catering to people of varying ability or needs?
Under Samantha’s guide, Unoccupied Direct’s Business Development Executives regularly work alongside solicitors in the wills and probate sector to deliver their insurance knowledge to those who need it.
In need of inspiration? Events, movements and groups are all around us that can help you and your company become more diverse. From the LGBT+ Lawyers Division by The Law Society to Woman in LawTech mentorship programmes by Legal Geek, there are many opportunities to become involved in the conversation, show your support and learn more about what diversity means.
Further supporting these efforts is Account Executive A’sher Powell, who works alongside solicitors and their clients to protect unoccupied homes that are either empty due to the owner moving into a care home or passing away. Her customer service has led to many positive testimonials from the law firms that we work with, and complements our efficient approach to dealing with quotes, cover and queries surrounding Unoccupied Property Insurance.
However, you need to start by being honest with yourself about what your company needs or lacks in terms of diversity. Start letting others know they can be themselves in these conversations; create a safe space for discussions. But most importantly, start a conversation about diversity by design.
Our departments - and the women in them - work together to ensure the highest quality of insurance cover and services for solicitors. They are key players in achieving our goals of becoming the go-to insurance provider for homes empty due to the owner moving into a care home or passing away.
“Are our services diverse by design and catering to people of varying ability or needs?”
At Unoccupied Direct, equality within the workplace is not only encouraged, it is the norm.
“The women within Unoccupied Direct itself have been pivotal in driving our work with solicitors and the legal sector forward.” 43
is the Account Manager for Geodesys.
is the Key Account Manager at tmgroup.
The turning tech tide
How is the latest technology supporting smarter working, driving efficiencies, and ultimately helping women to have a better work life balance?
In our ‘celebrating women’ issue, we caught up with Kay Toon at Geodesys to talk about her career path to date and her approach to client relationships in the searches industry.
Years ago, progressing property transactions revolved around a manual process of ordering searches, filling in forms, raising cheques and running around the corner to drop them off. Thankfully technology providers such as tmgroup, where I’ve worked for nearly six years, realised there was a need to make these processes much more efficient.
Q: Tell us a little about your career to date. KT: I started as a financial advisor and then moved to a wellknown leader in technology, where I developed my passion for IT and software. So much so, I enrolled myself on an Open University degree in IT.
Fast-forward to 2019 and we’re leading the way in delivering change within the property market and online search service industry. Property professionals can now submit their SDLT and AP1 forms online, order their searches at the click of a button and more. It’s the convenience we’ve come to expect, as technology has an increasing impact on our everyday lives – from emails and webinar services, to online banking and shopping. All in the name of claiming back as many precious minutes as possible.
Since then, I have worked for a company who built interactive experience websites, managed large brands such as Lloyds, O2 and TESCO in the payment industry and been a Sales Manager. In September 2017 I was appointed as an Account Manager at Geodesys and am enjoying every moment. Q: How do you build relationships with your clients? KT: I think of myself as a personable individual. I have no hidden agenda and am not targeted to promote specific products so can provide impartial advice to my clients. 99% of communication is face-to-face allowing me to build rapport and position myself as a trustworthy expert.
20 years ago, if you’d have asked me ‘will I need to use paper and a pen for work?’ I would have laughed, and said of course! But, in today’s world, we write less than we have ever done, with iPads and digital notebooks as practical replacements. We work smarter too; transferring documents into drives to share with colleagues, CRM systems and portals. That’s not all. Increasingly I’m hearing more and more about clear desk policies and being ‘paper light’, with firms embracing technology to create even more efficiencies.
Q: How does your role benefit and support those working within the legal sector? KT: Part of my role is ensuring I am up-to-date with the latest industry updates and legislation so I can impart this knowledge on to clients and ensure they understand. I am always on the lookout for developments in technology software to ensure Geodesys continually develops too.
In many ways, my life has been enhanced by these technological changes. As a full-time working mum, it’s helped me to maintain the balancing act of school runs, meetings and administration, so I can be more flexible and still have a career. I’m not alone. The days of nine-to-five are well and truly over for many working women, as the advantages of agile working and technology have allowed us to remove the shackles of our desks and confines of a traditional office job.
Q: How do you keep up-to-date with the latest legislation? KT: It’s important I understand the conveyancing protocol, so I keep myself updated through industry publications, newsletters and social media. LinkedIn is a good platform for obtaining information, as well as being a member of relevant groups to participate in discussions and ask questions. Q: What is the most rewarding part of your role? KT: I really enjoy meeting new clients and identifying solutions in response to their needs.
Being a working parent often feels like I have already done a day’s work before the day job starts. Yet even with time being such a precious commodity, I believe it is possible for women to have a positive work life balance… If they open up to the idea of working with technology – instead of against it – and embracing all the time-saving benefits it can bring.
Q: What challenges do you face in your role? KT: Industry legislation is constantly changing, so sometimes it can be hard to keep on top of developments as well as obtaining transparent information. Whilst this is a challenge, I pride myself on being able to update my clients with the latest relevant information.
“…The advantages of agile working and technology have allowed us to remove the shackles of our desks and confines of a traditional office job.”
Q: If you could offer one piece of wisdom to conveyancers what would it be? KT: Work with a search provider that doesn’t just promote searches, but one that has a more holistic approach and takes time to truly understand your business.
is the Tax Director at Griffiths Allen.
Worried about SDLT submissions? SDLT litigation is on the increase. How is your firm protecting itself going forward? Conveyancers are being bombarded with complex and tricky SDLT situations from all angles including, their former clients, SDLT refund companies and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). The two most common tricky situations we see are:
2. Mixed Use status challenges by HMRC We have seen a marked increase in the number of HMRC challenges when Code 02 has been used and the non-residential rates of SDLT applied. HMRC claim it is ‘its policy’ to treat all land purchased with a dwelling as residential property, unless there is significant commercial use of that land.
1. Out of date Multiple Dwellings Relief claims Multiple Dwellings Relief (MDR) can only be claimed in a SDLT return or amendment to a SDLT return which means that once the 12 month amendment window has closed, MDR cannot be claimed. Before your former clients come knocking it is advisable to review the firm’s purchasers over the last 12 months and ask yourself:
HMRC has never, however, published policy that suggests this view is correct; to the contrary their taxpayer guidance states that non-residential property is ‘any other land and property that is not used as a residence’. It appears HMRC is attempting to alter its view on what does and does not constitute residential property to suit their purpose. We therefore recommend that for those matters that are already subject to a HMRC Enquiry, you do not accept HMRC’s view that the purchase is not mixed-use straight away. For those matters that have completed already you may want to double check what evidence you gleaned of mixed-use status on the effective date and that it is adequate based on current taxpayer guidance. In both situations we recommend you glean help from a tax professional if needed.
1. Can a large house actually be more than one dwelling? 2. Does the house have an annex or another dwelling in the grounds? 3. Have any outbuildings within the grounds been converted into a dwelling? If the answer to any of these is yes, it won’t be too long before you receive a letter from a refund claims company or even worse a pre-action protocol letter for professional negligence because the 12-month amendment window has closed. We therefore recommend you review your files before it’s too late and glean help from a tax professional if needed.
“Conveyancers are being bombarded with complex and tricky SDLT situations from all angles.”
JOIN THE EDITORIAL BOARD Modern Law Magazine’s editorial board provides practical guidance to our readership about the latest market developments. Our editorial board members’ knowledge and insight is extremely effective and valuable to firms facing impending business challenges. The editorial board enables you to provide solutions through your editorial contributions, positioning you as thought leaders and granting excellent exposure in the legal sector. But don’t just take it from us: “Being on the editorial board of Modern Law has given me an opportunity to share ideas with the editor and other members of the Board. I have been made to feel that my contribution is unique and valued. It also has meant that the readership get the chance to hear a psychological perspective on law, legal practice and quality improvement, which I think is worthwhile and positive.” Professor Hugh Koch, Clinical Psychologist & Director, Hugh Koch Associates and Professor in Law & Psychology, Birmingham City University.
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power An eye on the future Modern Law spoke to three ambassadors for women in law, who support and develop women at all levels in their organisations. They share their view on progress and opportunities for women from the coalface, how they have been inspired and their aspirations for women in the future.
Managing Partner, Thorneycroft Solicitors MLM: How do you feel about quotas to increase the number of women in very senior roles? Should other targets be used and why do you think (if at all) it’s important to see a reflective number of women in senior roles?
MLM: Has the environment for women in senior roles changed in the legal profession, and how? RS: It really is quite hard to believe that 100 years ago, women were barred from working in law. They weren’t even allowed to study the profession. At that time, whenever women were testifying in court or seeking legal advice, they would be met and surrounded by men, lots of men. Barristers, solicitors, paralegals – they were all very much male.
RS: I am a firm believer that people who have the right attributes for a role (e.g. knowledge, experience) should be the ones appointed to them. Within the Thorneycroft group of businesses we have a high proportion of females in senior roles and this is based on attributes. Our senior females, and their male counterparts, all make a significant contribution to the business.
A whole century later, we have thankfully seen women slowly but surely making their mark in the legal industry. The most recent figures from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) show that almost half (48%) of all lawyers working in law firms are now women. However, there is still a long way to go before women reach parity with men. Only 33% of partners in law firms are female.
MLM: Is it important is it to celebrate women in law and other diversity champions, and why?
MLM: What would help encourage more women to gain and retain senior roles in the sector?
RS: It’s important to celebrate anyone who is a success. This is a key part of the ethos of Thorneycroft Solicitors and individual and collective achievements are celebrated in both internal and external communications.
RS: Firstly, individual organisations need to have the right approach to recruitment and development. I feel that each of the following are key to creating a culture that will achieve the above:
MLM: Have you had any female mentors / role models and if so, whom might that be?
• Making access to flexible working for women and men mainstream in all workplaces. • Providing women with access to mentoring and sponsorship from senior staff and peers. • Networking opportunities. • Ensuring that there are women role models in senior positions.
RS: There are many women in the industry that I would call friends, and so they automatically fall into the role of mentor to me. There is a very strong female network within the sector and we often meet to share experiences and offer each other support. This is acknowledged by all as being a big help to everyone in their individual roles.
Emma O’Day LLB
Marketing & Communications Manager, The Cashroom
Managing Director of LexRex Communications Ltd.
MLM: Has the environment for women in senior roles changed in the legal profession, and how?
MLM: Has the environment for women in senior roles changed in the legal profession, and how?
EO: 100 years ago women were not able to study law let alone be a senior legal professional and so of course a lot has changed. In my law class there were at least 65% of the students female and so it is a fact more females are entering the profession than males. There is still a large gap at the top, we have over 170 legal firms as clients and the majority of partners in these firms are male. We have definitely seen the change occur in terms of volume of female legal professionals but not necessarily right at the top.
VM: Broadly speaking, there has been some recognition and commentary across the media that things need to change for women in the law. But how much of this filters down into each practice is difficult to say. As we all surely know, the legal profession can be slow to embrace change. MLM: What would help encourage more women to gain and retain senior roles in the sector? VM: Ultimately, flexibility and openness on both sides. There will always be disconnects between what individuals experiencing different circumstances feel is fair, appropriate and reasonable. However it is important for employees to be able to discuss openly what they want, what can be achieved and what they think is reasonable. Law firms need to be open to new ways of doing things, and ultimately recognising that most people want to be good at their jobs and perform well.
MLM: What would help encourage more women to gain and retain senior roles in the sector? EO: It has to be flexibility and agile working. We hear large companies like Virgin and Google parading their policies like trophies but we know this isn’t as easy for the small-mid tier legal firms. I am beyond lucky to be in a senior position where I have taken maternity leave within my career and have never felt this has slowed my progress towards my now senior position. We all have such busy lives that allowing more agile working would give women more options.
MLM: How do you feel about quotas to increase the number of women in very senior roles? Should other targets be used and why do you think (if at all) it’s important to see a reflective number of women in senior roles? VM: I struggle with the idea of quotas, although I can also see why others support their application. As a woman in the law (albeit not a practising solicitor any more), like many of us I excelled in formal education and now run a successful business – and therefore the idea of holding a role via a quota just seems like a bit of an affront to my hard work and success. I would want to be in a position of power purely on merit, not because there’s a quota in place to ensure women are represented equally.
MLM: Is it important to celebrate women in law and other diversity champions, and why? EO: Of course! As long as they are deserving and the right person to be celebrated. I don’t believe women and other diversity champions should be awarded because they are a minority group but instead be awarded when they have exceeded above others and be treated as an equal candidate.
Also - on a purely practical note - I don’t think I’d want to work within a business that didn’t value its female staff enough to promote them without the need for a quota. MLM: Have you had any female mentors / role models and if so, whom?
MLM: Have you had any female mentors / role models and if so, whom might that be?
VM: I tend to admire my role models from afar to be honest! I’ve been told that meeting your idols can be very disappointing, so I’m not risking it. I have always been a big fan of Cherie Blair and her professional achievements, and of course, more recently Michelle Obama. Another lady doing some fantastic things is the force of nature that is barrister and founder of networking and support group Women in the Law, Sally Penni. She could never disappoint in real life.
EO: Honestly no. I have never realised this but all of my workplace mentors have been male! When in a legal firm any partner I was working for was male and at The Cashroom, four out of the five board members are male, as is my whole team (I now work with business development). What I do hope is that I can be that role model for young females at The Cashroom, that they can look and see me as well as other female senior management members, and know that there is no discrimination here or a gender gap. I have a son and a daughter and I hope both can grow up knowing that any senior position is within their reach, regardless of their gender.
More generally, many of my clients are women who have set up their own law firms and I have an awful lot of respect for what they are achieving. Gisella Alberici and Joanna Norris at Ratio Law stand out as exceptional lawyers and successful business people operating in the traditionally male-dominated fields of property finance and commercial property respectively.
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Break the networking laws! Christie Guimond explains why poor networks create a barrier to success for women in law, and offers some solutions to break through!
“…Strong female leaders will ultimately drive balance in the legal industry.”
Why networking feels like hard work
We all need to work together, and men play an important role in supporting female leaders. However, female leaders can continue to take steps that affect their own success, and one key area where we can take control is by focusing on the way we build and engage with our networks. Having access to a strong network can positively impact a leader’s success by exposing them to new opportunities through a wide range of perspectives. Unfortunately, most leaders find networking challenging, and research clearly shows that female leaders are particularly prone to under-developing and underutilising their networks.
• Opposites don’t attract: I am afraid that Paula Abdul was wrong. Opposites don’t actually attract, as a general rule. A significant amount of social science research has actually established that we are more inclined to pursue relationships on the basis of our similarities. This can be a challenge for some women in leadership where male-dominated senior ranks still abound. Occasionally, we have to work harder to establish relationships at this level. It can take a bit longer to find common ground that, for the already time-poor leader, can be a vicious circle.
t has been nearly a century since Madge Easton Anderson was admitted as the first female solicitor to practice in the UK. Since she broke that initial barrier, Madge has been followed by countless amazing female leaders. In the 21st Century there are more women in leadership roles than ever before and the legal industry is gradually moving towards balance for better. As things stand, however, it will still be many more years before balance is achieved, and we all need to be doing something to ensure that it doesn’t take another 100 years to elapse before this happens.
• It’s a question of time: It is no secret that leaders are time poor. We all feel this pressure acutely. Life in the 21st Century is busy, and the successful ‘career woman’ is the busiest of all! The problem with networking is that it can feel like hard work. It can absorb a significant amount of time and energy, and has relatively low demonstrable returns.
Michelle Obama once said, “People who are truly strong lift others up. People who are truly powerful bring others together”. Powerful female leaders in the legal industry who can bring others together, and lift others up as they rise, will be the ones who make a true impact on achieving the balance our industry needs. So much of this can be achieved by networking with purpose, but there are countless reasons why we put networking so low on our list of priorities as leaders. We need to examine these reasons and find ways of addressing these challenges.
• We keep our spheres separate: Research has also shown that women are more likely to keep their work and personal spheres separate. In contrast, men have been shown to be more likely to combine the two – often counting their professional network as friends, and engaging in informal activities with them. Informal activities are more likely to foster a sense of comradery, build trust and strengthen relationships. Keeping the two spheres separate can impact the quality of relationships within your network, and ultimately impact upon its value.
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Great news! Networking doesn’t have to be ‘work’
“It is no secret that leaders are time poor. We all feel this pressure acutely.”
Networking is not without its challenges, but the good news is that you can make networking feel less like hard work by doing three things: 1. Invest your time wisely. An investment in your network is an investment in yourself as a leader, and your returns are directly commensurate with the amount of time and effort you put in. It is important to invest wisely and to find the right groups, activities, industry associations, alumni networks or professional networks that work for you.
Breaking the laws of networking There are many networks that can support you as a leader within the legal industry, and finding one that suits you is important. You don’t need to settle for the usual approach to networking though. My two co-founders, Nicky Leijtens, Priya Lele and I are on a mission: to create a new platform for like-minded female leaders to explore legal innovation, and in the process, ‘break the law.’ Together, we have co-founded ‘She Breaks the Law’, a network with a difference – created for women who lead legal disruption to connect, develop skills, share their experiences, and create live events like design workshops and hackathons.
2. Cultivate your relationships: Networking is about more than exchanging business cards at an event or connecting via LinkedIn. You may need to work to find common ground with your contacts, but once you have done so, you need to ensure that you are cultivating those relationships. Take the opportunity to meet informally on occasion, if you can. Remember that the more you give to your contacts, the stronger your connections become and the more likely you are to find the support you need when you need it.
Our network’s members come from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines, including GCs, partners, Chief Innovation Officers, Chief Technology Officers, founders of legaltech or law companies etc, who have one thing in common: they are leading the change in the way that legal services are delivered. We believe that there are four things the innovative female leader needs to drive balance for better:
3. Have a purpose, but have fun. It is important to network with purpose when you are time poor. Being targeted and strategic in the associations and activities you get involved in, and the relationships you pursue will help you to get the most from them. However, don’t lose sight of the fact that successful networking doesn’t always have to be formal – it can also be fun. In fact, the more fun you have, the more likely you are to develop comradery and trust. If you aren’t having fun, move on and find an activity you do enjoy!
• That the support of a strategic network of like-minded, innovative women can help you to be more impactful as a leader of disruptive change;
“One key area where we can take control is by focusing on the way we build and engage with our networks.”
• That it takes certain skills to be a leader of disruptive change, and that it is crucial to offer the opportunity to develop and hone these skills. Role-modelling can help innovative leaders develop their own capabilities – including understanding how to ethically and effectively build their own networks; • That every leader’s story is important, and that shared experiences are crucial to building trust – which in turn drives collaboration and creativity; and • That it is important for members to be exposed to new ideas and to have a safe space to share and develop these opportunities. Collaboration to common problems can lead to better solutions, and can be fun! If you are a female leader who wants to make a difference, and are looking to strengthen your network, you can get in touch via Twitter (@shebreaksthelaw) or via LinkedIn. Remember that networking with a supportive community will help you strengthen your position as a leader, and that strong female leaders will ultimately drive balance in the legal industry. But you don’t need to settle for networking that feels like work!
Christie Guimond is the Co-Founder of She Breaks The Law.
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Operating at all levels Michelle Peters believes that, in today’s world, being a good lawyer is no longer enough. Here she shares the essential business skills you need if you’re going to build a successful legal practice.
n the modern law firm it’s no longer enough to be good at the practise of law – you also need to be good at the business of law.
My own journey – from practicing solicitor at a large international firm to small business owner – made me realise how little most lawyers are taught about ‘business’, and how much this impacts on the success of their practice. When I made the switch, I suddenly discovered that as well has having to do the work, I also needed to be able to bring in the work, make sure I got paid for it – and survive financially while I was learning how to do all these things. Fortunately, I chose some great mentors and teachers who put me on the fast-track to learning the skills I needed to make sure my business succeeded. This is what inspired me to start helping other lawyers become more skilled at the business of law. No-one’s born knowing how to run a legal practice, but anyone can learn how to do it – if they’re prepared to put in the time and effort. And it does take time, effort, and usually some expert help, to learn and hone new skills. You weren’t born knowing how to write a legal agreement or argue a client’s case in court; you studied with people who knew how to do those things, you then put it into practice, and you kept learning every week, probably with continuing professional development and training every year. Learning business skills is no different. One of the most important business skills is marketing because, without clients, you simply don’t have a business
“My own journey…made me realise how little most lawyers are taught about ‘business’, and how much this impacts on the success of their practice.” (all you have is a dream). Many people assume that marketing is just about deciding whether to ‘do Facebook’, which networking events to attend, and whether or not to run adverts in particular publications. But marketing is really about getting the right message in front of the right audience. And the right message starts with the ‘why’ – why your clients need your product or service, and why they should choose you to provide it. If you don’t learn how to tell them that, it doesn’t really matter where you advertise or market your services – you’ll generally be wasting your time and your money. While good marketing is critical, it’s ultimately fruitless if you aren’t good at turning your enquiries into paying clients. This means learning how to ‘convert’, so that you aren’t letting the enquiries you’ve worked so hard to get slip through your fingers. This can be a real challenge for lawyers, since most hate the idea of doing anything that feels like ‘selling’. So, instead, they try to impress the client by giving away too much free advice (which often backfires). You also need to know how to create a business model that works – one that will be profitable and can be adapted as you grow. On top of that there’s learning how to manage the finances of a business
(cashflow, profit and loss, balance sheets), and how to manage the staff. I’m not saying that you should get personally involved in every detail of your business – far from it. But you do need have good business skills, so you can develop the strategy for every aspect of your practice. Then, when you delegate the detailed implementation of that strategy, you’ll be able to understand whether or not it’s being done correctly. Delegating (or outsourcing) without understanding the strategy yourself is a bit like asking someone to build you a house without having any input into its design, purpose, or cost. What are the chances you’ll get the house you want?
is the founder of The Business Instructor and the author of ‘The Client Magnet Formula for Lawyers’.
A charter for success As we mark the centenary of women first being permitted to participate in the British legal profession it is important to celebrate how far we have come over the past 100 years. If we are to thrive as a profession over the next century, however, it is also imperative that we acknowledge the distance we still must travel to achieve full equality. Sally Penni reports on this and the launch of the Women in Law UK Charter.
Sally Penni WITLUK dinner 2019
Dr Helen Pankhurst WITLUK dinner 2019
“Achievement of the Charter is far from being a box-ticking exercise and we will look for real evidence of approaches and initiatives to help retention and wellbeing, and the achievement of diversity at the highest levels.”
ore than 300 women and men attended our annual dinner this March in Manchester (home of Women in the Law UK’s headquarters and birthplace of Emmeline Pankhurst), and heard fantastic speeches from inspiring figures including Lady Hale, Dame Laura Cox, Dr Helen Pankhurst and Mrs Justice Cheema Grubb. It would have been impossible to listen to them and not be bowled over by their achievements and those of the generations that went before them.
Against this background, Women in the Law UK has been providing advice, support and mentorship to female lawyers since its inception, to help them achieve the careers they want and deserve. Our events attract fantastic speakers and are always really well attended by women and men from all levels of the profession.
All of these speakers were clear that, while many of the most egregious barriers faced by previous generations of female lawyers have been removed, a great many impediments to women’s progress remain - both in the legal profession and in society at large. For those from less advantaged backgrounds, the barriers are higher still.
Our membership continues to grow around the country, we have more than 4,000 LinkedIn followers, and over the past year we have launched events programmes in London, Leeds, Liverpool and Edinburgh. These cities are soon to be followed in Leicester and Birmingham, and we have also launched a new podcast series: ‘Talking Law’.
The figures speak for themselves. Women now make up more than half of the profession’s intake as trainees but, according to the consultants Deloitte, in 2017 just 18% of partners in the top 10 UK law firms were female. The picture was not much better in the smaller firms they examined.
However, we felt it was important now not just to support female lawyers as individuals but to provide a concrete benchmark against which their employers could be judged.
A culture of long hours and lack of flexibility to accommodate family life are two of the major obstacles faced by many women as they seek to progress in our profession. Another is a continuing cultural divide that sees women well-represented in fields such as family, employment and private client but barely to be seen in many firms’ high-earning commercial litigation and corporate teams.
The need for a new initiative to promote diversity and wellbeing was also a key finding of the first two stages of an ambitious programme of research we have undertaken, in association with Manchester University, which has so-far looked at inequalities in
“Women now make up more than half of the profession’s intake as trainees but, according to the consultants Deloitte, in 2017 just 18% of partners in the top 10 UK law firms were female.”
Mrs Justice Cheema Grubb WITLUK dinner 2019
Dr Julian Farrand & Baroness Hale WITLUK Dinner 2019
Dame Laura Cox WITLUK dinner 2019
the law and retention and progression. In response to all of this we have introduced a new gender diversity Charter, which received its official launch at this year’s Women in the Law UK annual dinner.
The types of area in which the Charter seeks evidence of approaches that support diversity and women’s career progression include:
The Charter recognises barristers’ chambers, solicitors’ firms and other legal businesses that are actively working to promoting gender diversity and employee wellbeing. It exists both to celebrate and acknowledge those legal businesses that have demonstrably made strides in this area and to provide a standard to which others can aspire.
• The ways that productivity is assessed. • How good work is rewarded. • How firms decide who gets partnership – for example by looking at more than just a lawyer’s number of billable hours. • Who is in the firm’s pool for promotion. • The rewards for promotion.
Criteria that must be met in order to be awarded the Charter include:
We have already had a great deal of interest in the Charter, both from firms and their prospective employees.
• Actively trying to bridge the gender gap in the legal profession. • Actively promoting employee wellbeing and wellness. • Actively promoting the retention of talent in the legal profession. • Actively promoting the progression of women from black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. • Actively encouraging male ambassadors and champions. • Demonstrably supporting the activities of Women in the Law UK. • Working to address the gender pay gap.
Women in the Law UK has recently spoken to the law societies at Pembroke College Cambridge, St Andrews University, Manchester University, Warwick University and SOAS in London. At all of these events the students present asked about the Charter, demonstrating that the issues Women in the Law UK is addressing are not just of interest to existing lawyers but also to young people considering their first steps in the profession. I look forward to a time in the not-too-distant future when holding our Charter is a key factor in choice of firm or chambers for new entrants to our profession and for experienced lawyers considering a move. I would encourage firms that want to be in the vanguard to get in touch and take the first steps now.
Firms applying for the Charter must be able to provide tangible (usually documentary) evidence that, through their activities, they have actively fulfilled these criteria. To retain their status they must also, in future, be able periodically to demonstrate that they are maintaining or exceeding the standards that led to the original award. Achievement of, and ongoing compliance with, the Charter is assessed and monitored by a panel of senior figures from the profession, drawn from Women in the Law UK’s membership, ambassadors and patrons. Achievement of the Charter is far from being a box-ticking exercise and we will look for real evidence of approaches and initiatives to help retention and wellbeing, and the achievement of diversity at the highest levels.
Sally Penni FRSA
is a Barrister at Law at Kenworthy’s Chambers and Founder and Chair, Women in the Law UK.
I help small law firms to attract more clients and increase profits without working more hours Michelle Peters, The Business Instructor Solicitor (non-practising)
Michelle’s new book The Client Magnet Formula for Lawyers will show you: Why your existing marketing may be pushing potential clients away, and what to do about it How to use a Client Magnet to attract more clients who know why they want your services, so you don’t have to ‘sell’ to them How to have a ‘Conversation That Converts’ so that more clients say ‘yes’ to working with you A 5 Step System for attracting and converting more clients that you can apply in your practice or firm and get results in the next 90 days
Get your copy now at www.thebusinessinstructor.com/book
To download other resources to help grow your practice and to register for our online seminars and workshops visit our website www.thebusinessinstructor.com or call us on 020 7275 7471. To find out from Michelle exactly what your firm needs in order to have more clients and increased profits – without working more hours – email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7275 7471.
Be flexible, reap the rewards Cath Bell explains how a fully embraced and evidenced flexible working culture isn’t just great for women; it’s essential to create a law firm fit for the future.
s a Senior Operations Consultant of a Law firm with the head office in London, most people expect me to work in the City. However, thanks to the way Ignition Law have embraced technology and offer a truly flexible working environment, that isn’t the case. I live and work in the Yorkshire Dales, not exactly the ‘suited and booted’ London image that people imagine. Working from home or wherever else I want, in such a role has pros and cons. Having no commute is an absolute joy. You definitely have to be focused and for me a routine is paramount, that, and of course fast, reliable broadband. The major downside for working from home is making sure you do switch off. There is a real benefit to an office that is set up in a dedicated room in the house, as once you have finished for the day you can shut the door. This also helps keep the work/ home boundary separate mentally as well as physically. Having no travel issues also means I can start earlier or finish that bit later if I want. Anyone who regularly works from home will at some point have been asked if they
spend all day in their pyjamas. It’s a highly irritating query as it implies that working from home is a bit of an easy day, which is far from the truth. Normally the question comes from people who have always worked in an office environment and never had the opportunity to work flexibly.
consultants who work from home, are based all over the world across five continents. However, it is not just female lawyers who want a flexible work environment, we currently have nine men who prefer to work around their family commitments, be that children or elderly parents.
The legal industry as a whole has a poor track record of offering a flexible working environment. When I first met Alex McPherson and David Farquharson, the two co-founding partners, back in January 2015 they explained they wanted to build a different law firm, one that wanted to help entrepreneurs, start-ups and scale-up companies but that also considered the work-life balance of their team. Having previously worked for a traditional large law firm for 10 years where long hours are absolutely expected from fee earners and flexibility for support staff was practically none existent, this idea of a law firm thinking more like an entrepreneurial business was a breath of fresh legal air.
According to a YouGov survey of British Businesses, nine out of 10 employees considered flexible working to be a key motivator to their productivity, along with a good workplace culture. In fact, 77% of the people asked valued these two factors more important than financial incentives.
Four years on from that meeting and the start-up firm of Ignition Law is now in full scale-up mode with a team of over 40 people, some of whom are office based whilst others work remotely. The 24
“According to a YouGov survey of British Businesses, nine out of 10 employees considered flexible working to be a key motivator to their productivity, along with a good workplace culture.” 59
Traditional law firms need to appreciate that the industry is changing and that offering true flexibility to fee earners as well as the support team, not only helps the company, but the individuals are empowered in a very positive way. By using cloud-based software and various communication tools including audio and video conferencing the team members, who are not based in the office, still feel connected and a valued part of the firm, no matter where they are based in the world.
is the Operations Director at Ignition Law
Legal e x
From 27th-28th March 2019, Legalex, one of the UK’s leading event for law firms and legal professionals, returned to the ExCeL, London. Modern Law took part in the action and came away with a few snippets from Dave Newick, Arken Legal; Samuel Evans, HCE Group; Helen Ford, Bar Squared, and Patrick Bullen-Smith, Hera Indemnity. MLM: Why are you exhibiting at Legalex 2019?
Dave Newick: It is the first time that we have come to Legalex and for us it is a good opportunity to talk to some of the other vendors as well as to meet with key decision makers within the legal profession. MLM: What can you bring to the legal market? What makes you unique? DN: We have been running for 25 years and over that time we have run millions of wills through our software. That experience has given our software the capability to manage any degree of complexity that a client might have in their estate planning needs, without needing to edit clauses. What we bring to the market is a very specialised and vertical approach, which gives to solicitors, accountants and anybody who is doing wills, a massive increase in business efficiency. If you look at the industry, there are still many inefficiencies in our procedures, most people are still running paper-based processes and doing things that make it difficult to deliver services profitably, at a price point which is competitive. But there are technical solutions there, ours being one, that can resolve that for them, make services profitable and help them grow and compete.
FEATURE MLM: Tell us why you’re at Legalex? Samuel Evans: It is somewhere we know we need to be because there is a large presence of solicitors and individuals from the legal arena here today. We want to broaden our client base and this is a great place to meet new contacts. MLM: What can you bring to the legal market?
is the Business Development Manager at High Court Enforcement Group.
SE: As a High Court enforcement company, we provide assistance with the enforcement of judgments and court orders, evictions, tracing and process serving; a whole range of services where solicitors who only deal with this once or twice a year might not be aware of how High Court enforcement officers can assist. We are here to educate and speak to people about the benefits of transferring judgments from the County Court to the High Court for enforcement. MLM: What sets you apart from the competition? SE: We believe that what sets us apart is our experience, the speed and quality of our service and our nationwide coverage. We are all bound by the same regulations, but it is how you deliver that service and how you look after your clients, which is what I believe sets us apart from anyone else in the industry.
MLM: Tell us why you are at Legalex 2019?
is the Managing Director of Bar Squared Ltd.
Helen Ford: We have never done an exhibition like this before, but given the timing, we decided that we would attend Legalex as we have been doing quite a bit of work to integrate LEX with Xero for barristers who want to comply with the MTD for VAT regulations, and we were hoping to see a few of them here today. As our sales process is via CEOs and Clerks, we don’t have direct access to barristers, so we wanted to come here and network amongst them and tell them what it is that we do. We also have a new progressive web app that we will be launching for barristers soon, so that they can have a more comprehensive view of their practice on their mobile or digital device. MLM: Tell us what you bring to the legal market? HF: We bring the most modern application for chambers, the most widely used too. We supply about 75% of Chambers in England and Wales and we are just about to launch LEX in the Faculty of Advocates in Scotland, so every advocate in Scotland will be using our software. We bring great applications, constant updates and use of new technology; we have a fabulous support team and great enthusiasm. MLM: What separates you from the rest? HF: You need niche experience and I think our team showcases that, as well as the passion that we have for the Bar, because we want to help Barristers and Chambers grow and be supported. We have the passion, not just in providing software, but to see the profession grow.
MLM: Why are you at Legalex 2019? Patrick Bullen-Smith: This is the fifth year in a row that we have exhibited at Legalex and we have certainly found it to be really successful for us. We meet with many of our current clients over the two days, but it is also the perfect opportunity for us to meet with new clients who we can help with their insurance issues, particularly with our specialist area of Professional Indemnity Insurance. The Legalex exhibition is very relaxed and informal, and that really works for us. MLM: What can Hera Indemnity bring to the legal market? PBS: We have grown considerably over the last three years. We have over 1300 legal practices, which is over 12% of the market, and our USP is all about access to market. We can provide the right insurer for the right risk, and put the right firm with the right insurer…and it works. MLM: What separates you from the rest? PBS: Access to market, and because we are much smaller, I would definitely say client service. At Hera Indemnity, from day one a client works with one of our experienced brokers who will look after them during their PII renewal, as well as for all new business. In short, a client will have their hand held throughout the entire renewal process.
Patrick Bullen-Smith is Head of Professions at Hera Indemnity.
Big thinking for boutique law firms LexRex Communications is a specialist PR and communications consultancy serving boutique law firms across the UK. Led by Victoria Moffatt, a former solicitor turned legal PR specialist, our unique knowledge and understanding of the legal marketplace enables us to create strategic, measurable and effective legal PR campaigns, from media relations and social media, through to copywriting and training. And because we only ever work with one firm in each legal specialism, you can be safe in the knowledge that we’ll always help keep you a step ahead of the competition. We’re currently looking to partner with firms specialising in Insurance, Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment, Crime and Regulatory, Employment and Insolvency. Think we can help? Get in touch for a no-obligation chat.
LexRexCommunications.com email@example.com 0161 393 6121
So why do firms throughout the UK trust us with what’s beneath the surface? • We maintain up-to-date books and records • We process all day to day transactions • We make bank payments • We reconcile office and client bank accounts daily • We pay suppliers • We perform day and month end routines • We prepare and submit VAT returns • We assist with VAT inspections • We provide information for Accountants’ Reports • We ensure full compliance with SRA rules Contact Alex.Holt@thecashroom.co.uk for more information
Put a woman in charge of it (and most other things)
Our resident Tech columnist Charles Christian writes…
’m sadly old enough to remember a time, back in the mid-1970s when I was practicing at the Bar, when barristers’ chambers were still refusing to accept women members on the grounds they didn’t have a separate loos. (This was before the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act came into force.) Moving further forward in time to when PCs first started to appear on lawyers’ desks law firms in the late 1980s/early 1990s and I would frequently hear female solicitors warn that ‘you should never reveal you know how to operate a computer otherwise the men will start treating you like a secretary’. In other words, highly trained, intelligent women were dumbing themselves down to avoid be treated in a demeaning way by their male colleagues! And people wonder why so many women solicitors drop out of their legal careers.
“…What is often overlooked about the world of computing and IT is women have long been at the forefront of innovation…”
What is ironic about IT is it is potentially the most egalitarian of all vocations, involving no particular skillsets or requirements that might favour one gender over another. In fact what is often overlooked about the world of computing and IT is women have long been at the forefront of innovation – as distinct from being merely operating in menial roles as secretaries and data entry clerks. For example the late Grace Hopper (died 1992) was not only a rear-admiral in the United States Navy but also helped develop COBOL, one of the first high-level programming languages which, incidentally, also underpinned many of the law office computing systems used in this country.
is the Founder of the Legal IT Insider newsletter and talks about tech and geek stuff on Twitter at @UrbanFantasist
It was also almost exclusively women – they had the job title of ‘computers’ – who worked on the mathematics and computing programming underpinning the early phases of the US space programme. Indeed many of them were African-American women, which is even more astounding given the racial prejudices on the 1950s. The 2016 movie Hidden Figures covers this topic, as does the Nathalia Holt book Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from missiles to the Moon to Mars. And let’s not forget Lady Ada Lovelace (died 1852 – she was the only legitimate child of the poet Lord Byron) a British mathematician who worked with the pioneering computer engineer Charles Babbage. She wrote what is now recognized as being the world’s first computer algorithm containing instructions for Babbage’s Analytical Machine (in effect a steam-powered mechanical computer) to follow. Given this legacy, it should come as no surprise that over the past 30 years women have been at the forefront of the legal technology scene and are frequently to be found as Heads of IT/Legal IT Directors across law firms of all sizes, both in the UK and around the world. In the UK, two of the most influential in recent years have been Jan Durant of Lewis Silkin and Janet Day of Berwin Leighton Paisner. I recall interviewing one male IT director at a legal industry event some years ago, who replied – when asked why his firm had followed a particular tech strategy: “Because Janet Day did it at BLP!”
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PG Legal selects the Proclaim Practice Management system to enhance client care and support growth. Highly regarded commercial law specialist, PG Legal, has implemented the Law Society Endorsed Proclaim Practice Management Software solution from Eclipse Legal Systems, the UK’s leading legal software provider. Established in 2011 and specialising in commercial property transactions, PG Legal has grown to provide a range of legal services to businesses of all sizes and sectors in the North East and throughout the UK, including dispute resolution, debt recovery and employment law. Today the firm operates from its head office in Gateshead with further offices in Stockton and has a team of 24 committed to providing excellent client care. Prior to implementing Proclaim, PG Legal had outgrown its incumbent software
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Control Centre tool which provides increased efficiencies through complete management and analysis of key payments information. Jonathan Fletcher, Director at PG Legal said: “We see implementing Proclaim as a vital part of our future strategy to drive the practice forward whilst staying true to our core value of providing an excellent, comfortable and transparent customer experience. The inbuilt scalability and flexibility of Proclaim will prove invaluable as our operations and client base continue to expand.”
As part of the implementation of Proclaim, Eclipse conducted a data migration of both case and accounting data from the practice’s incumbent systems. To establish a solid approach to managing prospective clients, the firm has implemented Proclaim’s New Business Enquiries toolset to streamline enquiry management and file opening procedures. The firm is also benefitting from Eclipse’s integrated Credit
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Dynamic Champions Modern Law spoke to Maxine Park, DictateNow to see how it supports senior women in a rapidly evolving legal sector by offering dynamic, relevant solutions that allowing them to focus, delegate and work more flexibly.
ccording to the latest reported statistics, women account for 48% of solicitors, showing near equality in numbers to their male counterparts. However, due to the unique demands of women balancing home life, it means they have to work smarter, multi task more and delegate correctly to prevent burnout, says Maxine Park, founder DictateNow. Maxine, a qualified solicitor herself is very much a trailblazer, having formed the business almost two decades ago, when asked by her then law firm employer to find an outsourced dictation service that could solve its needs.
besides have all come together to disrupt the legal world, changing the landscape forever,” she adds. “However, the demands on women, especially those who are mothers too, make it incredibly complex. “Women want to have a rewarding career, but also balance this with the important things that really matter in life, like being there for school plays, football matches etc. the things that memories are made of,” she says. As a result, DictateNow has seen many fee earners, solicitors and paralegals take the decision to outsource.
Now with a workforce covering the whole of the UK, Maxine believes that the pressures on women to be superwomen are greater than ever and shows no sign of abating.
Also, the majority of the workforce at DictateNow, carrying out the work are female, who have been empowered by the freedom to do their work around their family.
“The glass ceiling is a real issue, and a huge topic, but what we have found is senior female solicitors and lawyers do show a real skill to focus on the important, thereby finding themselves firefighting less,” says Maxine.
“So many of our workforce are homebased and it is welcoming to know that we have these wonderful female legal secretaries who are being given the flexibility to work around their families in a way that they never could have a generation ago,” she adds.
“For instance, we find so many ambitious female solicitors know when to pass lower priority work to others and also outsource,” she adds. “The highly qualified female lawyers we work with are acutely aware time is precious and therefore ask us to use our legal secretaries, knowing that this empowers them to work more efficiently on their casework.” Maxine said law firms are adapting to different ways of working, in a way almost unimaginable a generation ago. “Technology, business-savvy solicitors, the Legal Services Act 2007, and more
“We always say that lawyers should look at the issue with their legal minds very much in gear. They need to consider the evidence, so rather than us trying to convince them, we believe a good place to start is examining the pros and cons. “Ask for references and speak to those who are law firms like yours and are fans - read testimonials, such as those on our website. Build up evidence! She added that the best suppliers of outsourcing services to law firms will give re-assurances. For instance, DictateNow is registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office and all services are ISO 27001:2013 certified – the internationally recognised standard for information security management. “We are delighted that our business continues to grow and have such a role in the legal landscape, but also it has given so much opportunity for women,” Maxine adds. “The work/life balance remains incredibly challenging, but we really feel we are doing our bit to empower women.”
She adds also that the changing dynamics mean male solicitors also have childcare responsibilities and are also deeply involved in the juggling to get the work/life balance as viable as possible. “We can’t overlook a much changed world in gender roles compared to a generation ago, which has altered society greatly and all roles in solicitors more widely,” she adds. Despite all the powerful reasons for law firms to outsource Maxine says there are those still reticent about outsourcing. However, she said this need not be the case.
is the Founder of DictateNow.
10 MINS WITH
Rachelle Sellek Rachelle Sellek, Acuity Law, exemplifies the kind of woman in law and senior lawyer that many aspire to be. She tells us how the workplace has changed for her, Acuity Law’s boutique, hybrid model supports female lawyers and who inspires her in our special ‘women in law’ 10 minutes with…
Did you expect the legal services industry to change so drastically when you started working in it?
Change is just part of life and what keeps it interesting. When I started out as a trainee, computers were just becoming part of everyday life. In fact, the firm I trained with had just installed them for everyone so we were all getting to grips with email, although letters were the norm back then. Technology is now everywhere, but the fundamentals of the job and delivering excellent client service have stayed the same. Also, when I first started out it was relatively rare to see women in corporate roles. It was quite common for me to be the only woman in a meeting. Things have changed for the better – it is several years since the instance where I could not get the (male) lawyer on the other side of the deal to return my calls. Eventually I was told that he refused to work with a woman!
What do you think would help more women attain and retain senior roles in the legal sector?
I’m fortunate enough to work in a law firm where the gender balance is relatively good – 40% of our partners are women and well over half of our entire workforce is female – so we don’t conform to the traditional masculine shape of the law. As a high-growth business, we’ve done a lot to make our workplace a positive, open and forward-thinking one. Practices such as flexible working and a hybrid consultancy model means we can offer opportunities for a better work-life balance. They also help us to recruit and retain talent.
Who inspires you and why?
“When I look at our cohort of junior lawyers, I see some very talented women and that will start to change the nature of the law.”
This year we’re marking 100 years since the first piece of equal opportunities legislation entered the statute book. The restrictions on women entering the professions were removed in 1919, but senior positions in the legal profession are still occupied overwhelmingly by men. Measures that address the lack of women at senior level across the legal profession must be a priority. Attitudes are changing, albeit very slowly. When I look at our cohort of junior lawyers, I see some very talented women and that will start to change the nature of the law.
My legal heroine was Helena Kennedy. A friend gave me a signed copy of her book Eve Was Framed when I was at law school with this inscription: ‘The law needs good women like you’. I’ve tried to live up to that throughout my career. Having risen through the ranks myself, I’m also passionate about training, development and helping young lawyers progress their own careers.
Have you had a mentor? If so, what was the most valuable piece of advice given to you?
I’ve been lucky to learn from a lot of people over the years. The one piece of advice I was given as a new trainee is the advice I still pass on to our trainees now: find something in the law that you enjoy doing. As lawyers we spend a lot of time working and at work, so make sure that you get more out of it than just a job to do and a salary at the end of it.
If you were not in your current position, what would you be doing?
Strangely enough, I’ve never seriously contemplated doing anything else. As long as the job is intellectually stimulating and fulfilling, it’s what I want to be doing. I have loved every minute of it, although I’m also quite happy to spend as much time as I can gardening!
is a Partner at Acuity Law.
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