“Trainee solicitors at the Law Society are at the centre of this change. They represent the future of the profession and the future legal leaders of Ireland. The growing diversity among our trainees is reflective of the diversity present in modern Irish society.
“Solicitors work in communities in every corner of Ireland, providing trusted advice on all areas of life and business. A more diverse profession is important to help increase access to justice for all,” she said.
“Women are currently in the majority of both trainee and qualified solicitors in Ireland. Demographics including age, location of practise and nationality represented among trainees are also changing, which signals progress towards the diversity we want to see in the profession. Law Society actions such as the Women in Leadership mentoring programme, Access Programme, the Small Practice Traineeship Grant and the PPC Hybrid flexible course are already making strides to help realise this future,” Ms Ní Longáin added.
Alysha Hoare from Cork is a trainee solicitor at McCann FitzGerald LLP, Dublin.
“As the first in my family to embark on a legal career, diversity in the profession is important to me. A more diverse profession brings with it the opportunity for more people to access justice and have an understanding of the laws which govern many aspects of their daily lives. This is in the interest of all in society as our clients are extremely diverse.
“The legal profession should continue taking meaningful steps to promote inclusion in the workplace. It is important for solicitors and the wider justice sector to reflect the public it serves. When this happens, individuals will be more likely to seek and trust the advice of a solicitor on matters ranging from personal affairs to business decisions.”
‘Breaking the bias’
Anjusha Puthan Purayil qualified as a solicitor in India in 2016 and successfully completed the FE1 exams at the Law Society in 2020. Anjusha now works as a trainee solicitor in Crowley Millar Solicitors LLP, Dublin.
“Diverse lawyers bring diverse opinions, diverse teams make better decisions, and a more diverse and equitable legal industry drives more innovative and creative solutions. It is extremely important to support and protect diversity because by valuing individuals and groups in a manner free from prejudice, and by encouraging a climate where equity and mutual respect are fundamental, we create a fair society, which is needed for a country to run smoothly.”
Reflecting on the International Women’s Day 2022 theme, ‘Break the Bias’, Anjusha said, “When I think of my future career as a solicitor, ‘breaking the bias’ means creating a world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive; a world where difference is valued and celebrated. If we as individuals can consciously break our biases and lead by example, I believe that we can then break the bias in our communities and our workplaces.”
Tarisai May Chidawanyika moved to Dublin from Zimbabwe 14 years ago and qualified as a solicitor in 2020.
“We need to amplify and listen to the voices of those who are marginalised. To me, ‘breaking the bias’ means I will carry my challenges, conflicts and triumphs and comfortably take space in every room I know I worked hard to be in,” said Tarisai, who works as a solicitor at Matheson.
“How much more real would access to justice in Irish society be when the person who is about to pave the trajectory of your life understands your background, your personal circumstances and what has led you to be in the situation you now face? Let’s encourage and educate students from disadvantaged backgrounds, from primary school all the way through to third level, and show them that the legal profession is achievable for them too.”
'Fulfilling my potential'
Gráinne Cuddihy, from Cork, qualified as a solicitor in 2020 and is currently practising at James J O'Donoghue & Co in Tower, near Blarney, Cork.
“When my children were teenagers I decided to pursue a law degree at night while working full time. My path to entering solicitor training was through my many years working as a legal secretary. I enjoyed studying and working in law and thought that becoming a solicitor would fulfil my potential.
“It is important for members of the legal and justice sector to reflect the public it serves so that the public can identify with their solicitors thus feeling their issues are understood. Breaking the bias in my future career would mean that colleagues and clients would appreciate my previous life experience prior to qualifying and see how this would benefit them.”
President Ní Longáin concludes: “This year’s International Women’s Day theme, ‘Break the Bias’, is particularly fitting. While women have been in the majority of the Irish solicitors’ profession for many years I am conscious that this is not yet reflected throughout all leadership levels.
"Recognising challenges that need our focus and action does not lessen the progress made to advance gender equality, diversity and inclusion in the solicitors’ profession. Now we must look forward with renewed purpose to increase access to leadership for women and those with diverse backgrounds.”