President of the Law Society Michele O’Boyle is the fourth female president of the Law Society. She has highlighted women in leadership as a key priority for her year in office.
“In December 1919, the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 was enacted to allow women to enter the solicitors’ profession. One hundred years on, the great work of reaching equality within the profession has made strides,” said Ms O’Boyle.
“I think it is significant that my year as president falls during the centenary year that celebrates women’s entry to the legal profession,” she said.
In 2014, the Irish solicitors’ profession became the first legal profession in the world to reach gender parity, when the number of practising certificates issued to women equalled the number issued to men.
“#EachforEqual is not just about having equal numbers in the profession, but having an equal voice at the decision-making table.
"In my inaugural speech as President of the Law Society, I noted that leadership is about privilege, and privilege brings responsibility. This International Women’s Day, I am encouraging greater equality in leadership roles in all areas of the profession,” said Ms O’Boyle.
To celebrate International Women’s Day 2020, the Law Society has profiled 15 female solicitors who hold leadership positions at the Law Society, including Council members and committee chairs. Read more about the women leading the solicitors’ profession: Women in Leadership.
Mentoring for success
Since 2016, the Law Society has been supporting more women to reach leadership roles in the profession through its Law and Women Mentoring Programme. Mentors are often women in very senior roles from the public and private sector, helping women part-way up the career ladder to reach more senior positions.
“So much great work has been done within the Law Society and the profession, on the important issue of equality,” the president said. “It is important for the profession that we create opportunities so that women and people from diverse backgrounds can access a career in law, and go on to take up leadership positions.”
Ms O’Boyle is also a member of the Law Society’s Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, which aims to encourage more female solicitors, and solicitors from diverse backgrounds, to seek leadership roles on the Law Society’s Council and in its committees.
The work of achieving equality within the profession begins before solicitors receive their parchments.
In December 2019, the Society launched PPC Hybrid, a new version of its Professional Practice Course (PPC).
It is specifically aimed at delivering a flexible route to solicitor qualification, without the traditional requirement to be on-site at Blackhall Place in Dublin, full-time, for a six-month period.
“Access to the profession is a key step in achieving equality,” said Ms O’Boyle.
“The PPC Hybrid has created a new flexible pathway, and is designed to specifically suit people with existing work, family or other commitments.”
“There are 46 students taking part in this year’s course. In all, 55% are over 30 and, interestingly, two-thirds are female,” she concluded.