A ByrneWallace partner, Michelle (pictured) has been practising in employment and equality law in this jurisdiction for the past 20 years and, before that, in the North of Ireland, and in the jurisdiction of England and Wales.
“Women achieved that equality in the solicitors’ profession in Ireland in 2014, and it is important to acknowledge that today. More and more women are choosing to make their careers in the solicitors’ profession.
“Our new Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, which I am honoured to chair, is focused on the leadership of the profession, initially in the Law Society’s Council, committees and bodies.
“We are also going to work to provide tools that can be used to support the profession in achieving and maintaining gender equality, diversity and inclusion in their firms and workplaces. The aim is to support real equality in practice at all levels.
“We want to ensure that all voices are heard around decision-making desks. We want a diverse, thriving and flourishing solicitors’ profession, and the Law Society is working to support this in any way it can.
In 2014, the Irish solicitors’ profession became the first legal profession in the world to reach gender parity. Since then, female solicitors have been in the slight majority, currently making up 52% of the practising profession.
“We recognise that a balanced, modern profession that reflects and represents the businesses and clients we serve is more effective on all fronts,” said Ken Murphy, Director General of the Law Society.
“We are constantly working towards higher standards of gender equality, diversity and inclusion,” he said.
“The theme for International Women’s Day 2019 is ‘balance for better’ – something which the Law Society is actively striving towards. As a society and a profession, we have not rested on our laurels since reaching the gender-balance milestone.
“We are five years on from reaching gender parity across the practising profession, and 96 years since the admission of the first woman to the Irish Roll of Solicitors in 1923.
“It is rewarding and energising to reflect on what we have achieved, and what we can still achieve, in terms of gender balance for Irish solicitors and the clients we serve.”
A total of 34% of partners in the largest seven law firms in Ireland are women – in one firm, this figure is 44%.
“Developing structures to improve gender balance at the very top of the profession is a serious focus for the Law Society, and we have taken a number of steps to make that happen,” Murphy outlined.
“For example, since 2016, the Law Society has run its ‘Law and Women Mentoring Programme’, designed to help more women reach partner and managing-partner level and continue to grow their careers.”
The Law Society recently launched its Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. It comprises 16 members from various minority, disability, LGBT+ and socio-economic backgrounds, and will make recommendations to encourage more female solicitors, and solicitors from diverse backgrounds, to seek leadership roles on the Law Society’s Council and committees.
The task force will also create useful tools that solicitors can use to help achieve equality, diversity and inclusion within their firms.
More information on the Law Society’s Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force is available at www.lawsociety.ie.