Male lawyers support a radical blueprint to achieve gender equality in the legal profession, a Law Society report concludes. The recommendations in ‘Male Champions for Change’, published today, include replacing assessed billable targets with ‘high impact assignments’, use of technology to allocate work fairly and universal access to flexible working arrangements.
The report is the outcome of men-only roundtables held across England and Wales. Participants included senior lawyers working in firms and in-house legal teams.
The report stresses the need to ‘consistently [give] women the chance to secure high impact assignments over a long period of time’. It adds: ‘This work is taken into account when producing shortlists for promotions… Large firms often require men and women doing demanding high-pressure work for quite a few years to make a positive career impact.’
A primary focus on targets based on billable hours should be ditched to achieve this. Firms and in-house legal departments need to find ways to credit ‘pro bono, client and practice development, corporate social responsibility and knowledge management’, when assessing lawyer performance.
On work allocation, the report adds: ‘Male managers must not make assumptions about whether a woman with caring responsibilities is less likely to be able or willing to take on work that could involve unpredictable hours or travel at short notice… these kinds of work experiences can be important when looking at candidates for promotion.’
Digital methods for work allocation ‘could naturally lead to a much fairer allocation process’, it concludes. In addition, unconscious bias training ‘needs to be compulsory and ongoing and include those in senior leadership positions’.
The report also challenges the traditional up-or-out model, saying firms should aim to keep lawyers who reject the chance of partnership.