Gaveling the Glass Ceiling: Coming Together at Several Recent Events

Topics: Diversity, Law Firms, Personal Effectiveness, Talent Development, Thomson Reuters, Women’s Leadership Blog Posts

civil justice

As this issue of Gaveling the Glass Ceiling is going to press, we’re extremely proud at Thomson Reuters about how two of our vital initiatives — one entering its third year, the Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law (TWLL) initiative, and one just launched, the Next Gen: Advancing Lawyers of Color initiative — have brought people together in the last month around the crucial issue of overcoming barriers in the legal industry for women attorneys and lawyers of color.

First, to kick off the month of May, the Thomson Reuters UK & Ireland (UKI) business held its inaugural TWLL program in London. The event gathered a cohort of outstanding speakers and delegates from all segments of the legal industry to examine, discuss and debate the issues that impede women as they progress in their legal careers.

Lucinda Case, Managing Director of the UKI business, opened the event by emphasizing why this is an urgent need, in part by referencing the hard data that demonstrates more diverse teams translate into better business outcomes. The keynote speaker was Kate Adie OBE, the former BBC Chief News Correspondent, who discussed her own groundbreaking career.

The ensuing sessions explored and debated the practical interventions that are mostly likely to make a real difference, including extended paternity leave, agile working policies and connecting initiatives to performance metrics. As a collaborative exercise throughout the day, polls were taken to capture attendees’ views and perceptions about the state of affairs in the legal profession. (You can check out those results and the full event coverage here.)

Two days later on May 3, the Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute convened its second annual Women’s Transformative Leadership Forum in Toronto, where attorneys from corporations, law firms and governmental agencies participated in a multi-dimensional, experiential forum on a range of topics — organizational strategies and programs to advance women, mental health and wellness, and innovative sponsorship strategies devised through a design thinking workshop. (Read full coverage of the Forum.)

We’re proud to have brought people together in the last month around the crucial issue of overcoming barriers in the legal industry for women attorneys and lawyers of color.

The event’s first panel kicked off with Beth Wilson, CEO of Dentons Canada; Av Maharaj, VP of Corporate & Legal Affairs at Kraft Heinz Canada; and Deborah Marfurt, Engagement Manager at McKinsey & Co., discussing their organizations’ commitment to women and how issues like the billable hour, implicit bias in feedback, and structural barriers can and should be addressed to level the playing field for women lawyers.

Attendees were also treated to keynote presentations by noted speaker and author Patricia Gillette on the findings from her law firm rainmaker study; and Hadiya Roderique, the author of the essay “Black on Bay Street”, published in November 2017 in The Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s most widely read newspapers. In the article, Roderique questions her law firm’s assertion that it is a meritocracy and discusses how she felt she had to prove herself over and over while seeing others being given the benefit of the doubt.

Most gratifyingly from my standpoint, attendees of this Forum were able to walk away with many tactics, trends and ideas that they could take back to their employers to support women’s advancement and also to position themselves for their own advancement opportunities.

The following week, Atlanta was the site of the Strength in Numbers: Celebrating African American Representation in the Law event, which dovetailed nicely with the launch of our new Next Gen: Advancing Lawyers of Color initiative.

The Atlanta event opened by welcoming M. Yvette Miller, the first African American woman to serve as both Judge and Chief Judge on the Court of Appeals of the State of Georgia, to deliver a keynote speech. (Read our full coverage of the Atlanta event.)

Ensuing panel sessions involved the examination of the black legal pipeline from law school to equity partner, and the related topic of retaining and promoting African-American legal talent. Each panelist affirmed that greater collaboration between law firms and clients would go a long way toward improving the pipeline of black lawyers into leadership roles.

While all separate events, when taken together, we’re fortunate to be able to provide a broader forum to further the debate on these key issues, encourage networking opportunities, and hopefully move the needle toward more retention and inclusion of diverse lawyers in the top leadership of the legal industry.