Fiona Woolf overlooks the contribution of clients with regard to her hopes that more women will reach the top in law firms. I agree that many law firms find it difficult to accommodate flexible working, but it is clients too who need to change their attitude to women lawyers.
Too often, I see law firms get it wrong. Women lawyers wanting flexible working are taken off transactional, big-ticket, profitable work and put on to poor-paying, routine-type work (like preparing property reports on title or precedent drafting) which they thought they had left behind them in the early years of their careers. No wonder they disappear without trace.
As a client myself, my business retains a number of women lawyers. Our policy is to develop close working relationships with all our lawyers (both male and female) and to work out together ways to accommodate our respective needs. If you want the best from your lawyer, then you need to remember that they have a life and what you actually want is to be the most important part of their professional lives. This requires a bit of give and take on both sides. After all, you are each investing in the other - the lawyer in the client’s business and the client in their lawyer’s career.
Christopher Digby-Bell, senior general counsel, Palmer Capital, London W1