International law firm acts to push women into senior roles in male-dominated profession

Reed Smith, a top-25 international law firm, has launched a new programme to help its female staff make their way up through the traditionally male-dominated profession.

The firm has created a series of workshops to expand opportunities for women at work in an industry that is notoriously “male, pale and stale”.

Legal services minister Bridget Prentice recently wrote to the top 100 UK law firms asking them to publish diversity statistics, but only 34 replied. Out of those, 32 had already published the data.

Just 3% of partners in the UK’s top 100 law firms come from ethnic minorities, according to The Lawyer magazine’s 2006 Diversity League Table.

Reed Smith’s programme focuses on providing trainees and associates with the information they need to examine their career development targets and develop the tools and skills they need to reach their goals.

The workshops, which were designed by not-for-profit research group, Catalyst also allow women to learn from their female peers and from female partners who have successfully risen through the ranks and hold leadership positions.

Brande Stellings, senior director of the Law Practice at Catalyst said women face multiple barriers to advancement in law firms.

“These barriers include lack of client development opportunities, lack of mentoring opportunities, commitment to personal or family responsibilities, exclusion from informal networks and lack of role models,” she said.

“Men have developed informal networks to address many of these barriers. One of the main goals of the workshops is to share information with female lawyers that will better enable them to achieve success, while emphasising the need to create and use informal networks of their own.”

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