With women poised to overtake men next year in a rapidly feminising solicitors’ profession, two international firms are seeking to recruit from what has been described as an ‘untapped’ pool of female talent.

Herbert Smith Freehills today announced it will be working with US organisation OnRamp, which identifies experienced female lawyers who have been on an extended career break and want to return to private practice, to offer one-year paid ‘fellowships’ at its offices in the UK and Australia.

HSF regional managing partner Ian Cox described the scheme as a ‘mutually effective arrangement that benefits participants and the law firms they are placed within’. No details on salaries were available. 

At HSF, the fellowships, which include on-the-job training and support, will be offered to female lawyers with at least three years’ legal experience who have been on an extended career break of up to 20 years.

David Shields (pictured), the firm's head of diversity and inclusion, said there was ‘no absolute guarantee’ of a permanent job once the fellowship is over, but the firm ‘would look to recruit them… depending on there being a vacancy and us needing that role’.

Hogan Lovells, which was one of four firms to pilot the fellowship programme in the US, has also announced that it is expanding its participation to the UK legal market.

Ruth Grant, partner and chair of Hogan Lovells' diversity and inclusion committee, said: 'As a global law firm, we are committed to empowering girls and women, and to the advancement and retention of women at all stages in their career.

'We strive to maintain a diverse and inclusive working environment as diversity creates better teams, and better teams mean better solutions for our clients.'

Candidates for Hogan Lovells' fellowships must have at least three years' experience and be returning from a career break of two or more years to be eligible.

Meanwhile, Herbert Smith Freehills is planning to introduce a ‘country navigator’ system this month to promote understanding of different cultures, another one of its global priorities.

Shields believes the firm will be the first in the country to use such a system, which will provide information about business etiquette in 97 countries, such as how to conduct meetings.

Shields said: ‘A lot of it [will be] around people having the right information and understanding of nuances and differences of doing business across the globe.’