Trust, ability key to advancement of women in law

By Jerome Doraisamy|22 March 2018

While gender issues continue to plague the legal profession, some are successfully addressing those issues with proactive, practical recognition of individuals’ capacities and needs. 

“We entrust our people – regardless of gender – with significant responsibility as soon as they demonstrate ability.”

This pronouncement comes from Squire Patton Boggs partner Amanda Banton, who heads the firm’s restructuring and insolvency practice, which focuses on financial instrument litigation and disputes.

Speaking on an upcoming episode of The Lawyers Weekly Show, Ms Banton pointed to the success of her team in advancing lawyers through the ranks, both male and female, where such promotion is warranted.

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“With so much going on [in our team] a great deal is expected of fee earners from day one – we don’t hold them back because they are a ‘newbie’ and there are numerous examples of junior associates getting to do work that would typically be undertaken by someone more senior elsewhere,” she explained.

“For those who thrive on the excitement of creating new law and pushing legal boundaries, it’s an exciting place to be.”

Her team makes a good case study for how the wider legal profession can better address gender inequality, she argues, and not just because the most senior roles in the team are held by women.

“We have a number of our senior people on flexible working arrangements – having a family, and the responsibilities that come with that, is not perceived as a barrier to doing the job or achieving promotion,” she said.

Across the board, female lawyers will flourish when given responsibility, Ms Banton argued.

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“Rather than targets and generalist programs, get to know your women as individuals and respond to their individual situation because everyone is different,” she said.

“Make sure the women have the opportunities to do the best work and appreciate that they are at times not as vocal about selling their wares but that should not discourage giving them opportunities.”

This latter point is particularly pertinent, according to Ms Banton, as she noted that there are more young female lawyers than male lawyers who lack confidence in speaking up or putting themselves forward for new opportunities in the workplace.

“While they may be equally capable of doing the work, females are more circumspect about grasping opportunities that present themselves,” she mused.

“Once you nurture their confidence and ensure that their views are respected and sought, they come through as thorough, well-considered and highly competent lawyers.”

These comments were supported by Squires’ general manager Louise Shelton, who said the firm’s emphasis is on “an organic and authentic” approach to firm culture.

“All the written policies in the world mean next to nothing if they aren’t championed and enforced by senior management,” she said.

“Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that if the leadership group practices the values it filters down.”

Trust, ability key to advancement of women in law
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