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A year in review—advancing equality in legal leadership through TWLL roundtable discussions

In January 2018, Thomson Reuters launched the Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law programme to do its part in addressing the issues that impede women as they progress in their legal careers and work to level the playing field and achieve a more equal future for all in the legal profession.

Our TWLL programme aims to reposition the conversation away from what ‘women can do’ and put greater onus on organisations, law firms, and the wider legal industry. We share potential solutions for leaders in the legal profession to truly drive change—through a series of events, articles, interviews, case studies, and white papers.

We began our series of roundtable events in June of 2018, to be part of our regular TWLL programme. Operating under Chatham House Rule, the roundtable dinners serve as forums for discussion and debate about the barriers that obstruct women as they seek to reach the senior levels of the legal industry. Attendees are women and men from across all segments of the legal industry, as everyone can be part of the solution. At the conclusion of the each of the events, participants are prompted to share their views, learnings and ideas they plan take back to their organisation to help drive the legal profession towards a more balanced and equal future.

Our inaugural TWLL roundtable dinner was held last summer in Edinburgh at the National Museum of Scotland, and the focus of the discussion was about the various methodologies and initiatives that exist to try turn the dial on inequality in legal leadership. The keynote was Emma Greville Williams, from the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh School of Law. Greville Williams spoke about the leadership programme at the University. The lively discussion that followed was so inspirational that it warranted a deeper dive into the levers used to advance diversity in the legal profession. As such, Thomson Reuters TWLL programme has partnered with Acritas to look at what effective levers law firms are using to improve the gender balance in their organisation. The findings of the research will be published in a report in June 2019.

Our next TWLL roundtable dinner was hosted by Emma Dowden, Chief Operating Officer at Burges Salmon, and a TWLL Advisory Board Member. The roundtable dinner was held at Burges Salmon’s office in Bristol. Attendees were from key law firms in the South West and representation from the legal education sector came together to discuss the challenges women in the law face. Over dinner, topics for discussion included the importance of mentoring; how firms can make the most of their female talent; and, how gender might influence the law firm of the future. Following an engaging and insightful discussion, the ideas to take back to their organisations included introducing well-matched mentoring; promoting flexible working; sharing stories of relatable role models; and, giving more junior women leadership responsibilities at an earlier stage.

The last roundtable, in 2018, was hosted by Clare Wardle, General Counsel and Company Secretary at Coca-Cola European Partners, and an Advisory Board member of the TWLL programme. The well-attended roundtable dinner was held at their office in London. The keynote was David Johnson, Account Director with the research firm Acritas. Johnson, armed with statistics from research done by Acritas on in-house counsel, kept the discussion flowing. The topics covered were the gender pay gap with general counsels (GC), female GCs are paid 20 percent less than their male counter-parts; why men are still dominating top positions, of the FTSE100 GCs only 25 percent are women; and, what can the buy-side do to influence private practice to better promote diversity and inclusion? The lively discussion and debate highlighted the two letters of commitment to support diversity and inclusion that have been published this year by GCs—one in the US and one from GCs in the UK. Both letters of a call to action are excellent examples of the movement to promote change and a commitment to place pressure at the organisational level—rather than ‘fixing women’.

In June of 2019, the one-year anniversary of the roundtable series, we held a TWLL roundtable dinner that focused on lawyers in the public sector. The event took place at the stunning art-deco Hackney TownHall, and was hosted by Suki Binjal, Director of Law and Governance, London Borough of Hackney, past President of Lawyers in Local Government, and an Advisory Board member of the TWLL programme. There will be an article published next week on this tremendously successful TWLL event.

In addition to the anniversary of the TWLL roundtable series, this year also represents the Centennial of women being permitted to work the professions, yet after 100 years—there remains gender inequality in the legal profession in senior leadership roles. A key theme surfaced each TWLL roundtable dinner—gratitude for a forum to speak about matters not typically raised for discussion and debate. Indeed, raising awareness and difficult discussions need to continue to encourage change and drive the legal profession towards a more balanced and equal future.

For more information about the Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law programme, and future round table events, click here.

Podcast: gender equality and cultural change during uncertain times Thomson Reuters President and CEO, Steve Hasker—we must do more Insights for diverse leadership and a culture to support change—TWLL webinar series Transforming Women’s Leadership: A strong 2019 and demands increase for the programme Author of the Equality Act of 2006—Daniel Greenberg shares his ally journey Collaboration is the key to equality, diversity and inclusion Giving constructive feedback across differences—a new report Asking for help is a strength rather than a weakness—embedding a well-being culture in law firms The Hearing: Episode 40 – Ann Olivarius Successfully facing challenges in the legal profession—TWLL roundtable in Dubai