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“Diversity will be the differentiator for law firms that are succeeding in the next 50 years”

Thomson Reuters annual ‘Generate’ conference is always an exciting date to look forward to in the calendar.

It presents an opportunity for customers to join our leadership team, thought leaders and industry experts to look to the future of the legal industry and Thomson Reuters products.

The conference addressed the core issues impacting the legal sector today through a series of interactive discussions, panel sessions and presentations—focusing on cybersecurity, blockchain, artificial intelligence, data protection, and Brexit, to name only a few.

Gender equality was another important topic that was a focus on the conference’s agenda. A session on the subject—Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law(TWLL): what does ‘right or good’ look like and how to get there—was chaired by Lucinda Case, Managing Director at Thomson Reuters Legal UK & Ireland.

The panel comprised of Laura King, Partner, Global Head of People and Talent at Clifford Chance, Rosemary Martin, Group General Counsel and Company Secretary at Vodafone, and Lisa Hart Shepherd, CEO and Founder of Acritas Research.

The session set out to explore the law firm and in-house dynamic and how a broader base of diverse talent can be retained, as well as assess the steep challenges and limitations the legal industry faces unless the issue is overcome.

From a law firm perspective, the panel noted the significance of how gender equality is increasingly being affirmatively raised by clients, representing a real “behaviour change” in the industry. In some parts of the market, there is a growing expectation from clients to have greater clarity on a firm’s diversity profile – and indeed, where the topic sits on its strategic agenda.

In practical terms, one panellist suggested that if firms are serious about pushing the gender equality movement, then the questions raised by clients on the topic should be properly acknowledged. If firms could turn to a set of comparable and fully disclosable data—for example, showing male and female representation over a few years—it could be “very impactful for firms” if clients were to use that data to engage back, potentially asking: “that diversity trend line isn’t going in the right direction. What are you doing about it?”

The panel asserted that from an in-house buy-side perspective, clients are indeed actively placing “pressure” on firms to address gender equality—a move which often stems from a raised awareness on the subject on their own part. Additionally, it was noted, 44 of the FTSE100 general counsels or company secretaries are women. This is a good statistic, they added, because it illustrates that a lot of the buying power resides with women, which could help drive some change when working with firms.

Of course, women make up almost half of lawyers entering the legal profession in the UK, however, this trend is not representative at more senior levels. There is an ongoing risk that female talent is being lost.

One panellist said that firms must adapt and move with the times in order to remain sustainable, adding: “This isn’t just about getting diversity. It’s what you do when you get diversity and what you do to help everyone develop and thrive. That will be the key differentiator for firms that continue in the next 50 years, and those that are left behind”.

About the TWLL programme

Thomson Reuters TWLL programme aims to bring together people from all segments of the legal industry to examine, discuss and debate the barriers that impede women as they progress in their legal careers.

The vision of the TWLL programme is to cultivate and develop actionable steps which organisations can take to accelerate the progress towards equality in the legal profession—as well as empower and inspire more women to take on senior leadership roles. Find out more here.

”Building Back Better” – an A to Z for leaders in law Empowering change to build back better – a four-step guide for law firm leaders What COVID-19 tells us about the future of work for lawyers The Hearing: Episode 72—Joeli Brearley (Pregnant Then Screwed) The future of diversity, equity and inclusion in the legal sector—time for a transformative approach The Hearing: Episode 66 – Christina Blacklaws (strategic consultant and the 174th president of the Law Society) Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law—Advancing Equality for Women at the Bar Webinar 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