By DebbieH 12 Sep 2013 7 min read

Women still under-represented in top-level legal roles

BBC Woman’s Hour’s UK female ‘Power List’ has two prominent lawyers in the Top 10. Dame Heather Carol Hallett is noted for being the fifth woman to sit as judge in the Court of Appeal, while Baroness Brenda Hale became the first woman to sit on Britain’s Supreme Court. They are fantastic role models in the legal profession and an inspiration to aspiring female lawyers.

However their achievements do not fully reflect the reality of women in law. Manchester legal recruitment consultant Kathryn Riley says there is a massive dearth of women in senior legal roles, reflected in industry figures.

Kath, MD of Douglas Scott Legal Recruitment, has seen female candidate registrations rise in the last five years but it appears more and more women are still leaving the industry in their thirties.

“In Manchester, and London even more so, women are still under-represented in senior legal positions,” says Kath. “Although we are seeing a rise in female trainees and NQ’s – recently the law society reported that 59.1% of new admissions were women – there seems to be a lag in terms of female representation at the top.

“Until men can have babies, flexible working could be the key to retaining female talent,” say Kath, as she sees that women who are having families are simply unable to maintain the hours some practices demand of them. Douglas Scott’s annual salary and benefits survey revealed that only 19% of legal professionals were working on a flexi-time arrangement, even though almost half of respondents actively wanted the option and 51% of women made it top of their wish list.

“The law as an industry is becoming more diverse and this is a trend I applaud, however there is still some way to go. In November 2012 The Lawyer revealed that female partners remain a minority at top UK firms,” says Kath. “The calibre of younger female lawyers we see is top notch, firms may just have to do more to ensure female talent stays in their business.”

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