The Law Society has launched a new task force to promote gender equality, diversity and inclusion in the Society and the solicitors’ profession.
The Task Force comprises 16 members from various minority, disability, LGBT+ and socio-economic backgrounds. The task force 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. Law Society President Patrick Dorgan has made diversity and inclusion a key theme for his year in office.
Women in the profession
Law Society Director General Ken Murphy said that the Irish solicitors’ profession was already leading the way in gender equality.
“In 2014, we became the first legal profession in the world to have a female majority. Last year, 52% of our members were women,” he said.
“Currently, 34% of partners in the largest seven firms in the country are women. In one firm, this figure is 44%. Last year, 37% of new partners in Irish law firms were women,” he said.
These figures show some improvement for gender equality, but there is more work to do.
“We are constantly working to improve access to the profession, and representation of women and diverse groups. Initiatives such as the Law Society’s Law and Women Mentoring Programme, and the Access Programme, support our equality and diversity goals.”
Since 2016, the Law Society has run its Law and Women Mentoring Programme to help more women reach partner and managing partner level in the profession. To date, 57 successful solicitor mentorship pairs have been created.
“The mentors are often women in very senior roles from the public and private sectors, helping women already part-way up the career ladder to reach more senior positions,” The director general said.
“It is an opportunity for mentors to provide support and insights, and also acknowledge their own vulnerabilities, while mentees can achieve clarity and confidence in their work, as well as guidance on how to grow their careers,” he said.
The Law Society’s well-established Access Programme supports entry to legal education and careers for students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
More than 200 trainee solicitors have received financial support through the programme.
Many of these are now successfully practising in a wide range of legal positions, including within top commercial law firms, as in-house solicitors, and as sole practitioners with their own firms.
“An inclusive, diverse profession that reflects the clients we serve is one that will be more effective and successful. Solicitors know that implementing policies of diversity and equality is not just the right thing to do – it is also good for their businesses, the profession, and the public,” Mr Murphy concluded.