At Open Plan Law we enjoy any excuse for a party but International Women’s Day gives us a pause for thought. Do we need a designated day to celebrate women, or is the day an anachronism? And if we do celebrate women, what is it for?
We recently tweeted about a book by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic “Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (And How to Fix It)”. In keeping with the message of the book, and as a sort of nod to International Women’s Day, we thought we would celebrate traits shared by many fantastic women and men alike, which the author declares worthy of a modern leader: level-headedness, the ability to assess skills accurately (rather than overinflate them) and high emotional intelligence. That in addition to field expertise!
We have also asked Anna, our founder, for her views on entrepreneurship and leadership, and what she thinks the future holds for women in the legal profession.
Q: What changes have you seen in the legal industry during your career?
There have been some very significant changes in the industry since my time as a junior lawyer in the City. The industry is diversifying, helped by new business models such as ABS and limited liability companies, and a more competitive professional insurance offering. Since the 2008/9 banking crisis, clients have tightened legal budgets and demand more for less. This forces the industry to be more agile and invest more effort in acquiring and retaining clients. As a result, numerous new firms are appearing on the market introducing healthy competition and more choice for clients.
Q: What changes would you like to see in the future?
There is something of a quiet revolution taking place: according to a survey conducted by the Law Society in 2017, more than a third of law firms are owned by women. These may be smaller to mid-sized firms (the partnership in large law firms remaining predominantly male) but this is an exciting statistic nevertheless. With time, these firms will grow and balance things out. Especially if the Government and finance industry act on the findings of the Rose Report published today. The report shows that if female entrepreneurs are funded on par with their male counterparts, the UK economy as a whole could be given a £250 million boost. It is also encouraging that general counsel increasingly prioritise legal spend on firms that commit to diversity and inclusion. These shifts are bound to have an impact in more subtle ways too, for example, by introducing a new perspective on the style of conducting negotiation and litigation.
Q: How would you like your firm to develop in the future?
We focus on organic growth because it is essential for us that the firm retains its culture of close collaboration, innovation, and the ethos of helping others. We may be small, but we are good and we are here to do good work. The rest will follow.
Q: Finally, what are your pearls of wisdom for those wishing to pursue a career in law?
It is harder than you think! Forget Suits, The Good Wife, and similar incarnations of TV lawyers (although it helps to be well dressed). Law requires grit and a willingness to put others first – the client’s problem will not go away only because you plan a holiday. Your satisfaction will initially come from a neatly tabbed bundle, and with time from making a persuasive argument, or capturing a complex issue in one paragraph. It is a team sport but whether you are more or less visible, you will have an impact on the world around you. And you will be able to express yourself through your practice which is a reward in itself. Above all, I would say, persevere!
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