More than a third of law firms in England and Wales are majority-owned by women, the Law Society said last week, as the lord chancellor joined the profession in marking International Women’s Day.
An estimated 34% of the 9,403 firms in England and Wales in 2015 were majority-owned by women – well ahead of the 21% average for female ownership across small businesses as a whole, Chancery Lane reported in gender-related statistics.
Society president Robert Bourns said: ‘The proportion of law firms majority-owned by women far outstrips the national estimate of women-owned small and medium enterprises, reflecting the changing culture in the legal sector.
‘As the professional body for solicitors, we see real power in diversity, and support progress for the best, regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation, so our profession reflects the population it serves.
‘We also know that businesses benefit from strong diversity, and inclusion policies and practices that help attract both clients and the best talent.’
Society deputy vice-president Christina Blacklaws told a Chancery Lane event that more than half of female solicitors work in-house. ‘Perhaps this is because sometimes employers in-house have recognised the benefit of agile-working practices as a way to attract and keep the best employees,’ she added.
Meanwhile, lord chancellor Liz Truss told an event hosted by grassroots network Women in Law London (WILL) that, as an outsider, she observed ‘there is still a culture of presenteeism in many law firms’.
She praised the legal co-operative Obelisk, whose members can work flexibly or remotely for clients, including Goldman Sachs, BT, Siemens and Barclays. Such models, she said, demonstrate ‘a focus on what people are doing and their output – not whether their jacket is on their desk’.