“The current crisis has brought existing inequalities to the fore. It also risks exacerbating them”, Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS).

Just as the Covid-19 crisis has brutally exposed the fault-lines in the political and cultural mores in various countries and various world leaders, thus the crisis will test and may well expose the true culture of your own law firm, for better or worse. Therefore, does the legal profession generally require an active policy to avoid the COVID-19 crisis exacerbating existing inequalities?

The In-House Community is proud to present the first  in a series of Webinar discussions dedicated to ‘Women In Law’ on the topic of “Is Covid-19 taking women lawyers’ careers back to the 1950’s?“

The Webinars will be free to attend for invited legal professionals. We are also inviting law firms, legal service providers and companies to sponsor and support this important discussion as Co-Hosts if they wish to do so (details below).

Webinar 1: ASIA / MIDDLE EAST / S. AFRICA / UK time friendly:
August 5th (Wednesday), HK – China Time: 4.30pm-6.00pm
Free to attend registration link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1106749021397833488

Webinar 2: NORTH AMERICA time friendly:
August 6th (Thursday), US Eastern Standard Time: 12.00pm (noon)-1.30pm
Free to attend registration link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5411244685164322832

An invitation to sponsor the webinars and show your support
Your institution is also cordially invited to support the first of the In-House Community “Women In Law” Webinar Discussions: for just US$500 we will place your company’s logo prominently on all material relating to the discussion, include a quote from one of your representatives in the post-webinar online article and provide you with a graphic with your firm’s name. Invitations will be sent to our full database and community (20,000 in-house counsel and 12,000 private practice lawyers). Your support will help us keep these important forums free to attend.  For more, please click here to download the supporter booking form.

About the discussions
Both discussions will be moderated by: Sally Dyson, consultant and coach to the legal profession at Firm Sense, former Head of Group Compliance & Regulation, Travelex Group and Co-Author of ‘The Real Deal: Law Firm Leadership that Works’.

Confirmed Speakers (so far) include:

Webinar 1 (Asia/ Mena / Europe time)

  • Christina Blacklaws, Consultant, Blacklaws Consulting Ltd., former President, Law Society of England & Wales
  • Ferheen Mahomed, Group General Counsel, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited
  • Georgia Dawson, Asia Regional Managing Partner, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
  • Hanim Hamzah, Regional Managing Partner – ASEAN, ZICOLaw
  • Neelam Kaul, Founder, “Stressed in the City”, Global Executive Career Coach
  • Nguyen Ha Quyen Hoang, Founding and Managing Partner, LNT & Partners
  • Patrick Dransfield, Co-Director, In-House Community
  • Serena Wallace-Turner, COO, Radiant Law
  • Shruti Ajitsaria, Partner, Allen & Overy and Head of FUSE
  • Wei Wen Wang, Vice President, Intercontinental Hotels Group, Greater China
  • Yosr Hamza, Director, Legal Counsel, Gartner

Webinar 2 (North America time)

  • Christina Blacklaws, Consultant, Blacklaws Consulting Ltd., former President, Law Society of England & Wales
  • Connie Brenton, Chief of Staff/ Sr. Director, Legal Operations, NetApp
  • Kate Broer, Partner, Dentons Canada LLP
  • Linda Myers, Partner & founder of Women’s Leadership Initiative, Kirkland & Ellis
  • Patrick Dransfield, Co-Director, In-House Community
  • Sonja S. Weissman, Partner, Reed Smith
  • Crystal Lalime, General Counsel of Global Markets, Credit Suisse

The Webinar discussions will prove lively and highly relevant as, according to Emma Jacobs of the Financial Times: “The pandemic has illuminated stark differences between working parents. Those with live-in nannies or a stay-at-home partner are freer to work than single parents. So too are those with older children versus parents of infants”.

But opinion is divided: according to Barbara Judge CBE the pandemic will have a lasting impact on company executives and business / law firm leaders about the viability of agile working: “Company executives and business leaders have hopefully experienced first-hand that excellent work can be achieved anywhere and that working from home does not equal work of a lesser quality….Usually thought to be preferred by working mothers, working from home has sometimes been stigmatized and labelled as the “mummy track”; a path corporate women might desire to take after having children. Today women and men, chief executives and personal assistants, husbands and wives, have all been forced to work from home, and more importantly, to ‘make it work’.”

In contrast according to IFS: “mothers (in the UK) are more likely to have quit or lost their job, or to have been furloughed, since the start of the lockdown”.

The immediate impact of Covid-19 also depends very much on where you are as the stark contrast between Hong Kong with 1,234 infections and 7 deaths and where schools have reopened and for example the United Kingdom, with 313,000 infections and 43,906 deaths (as of 2nd July, 2020), and only the promise of schools generally re-opening in September. Even before the crisis, the universal relevance of diversity and inclusion was a particular problem in England and Wales, according to Christina Blacklaws, former President of the Law Society of England & Wales: “..we struggle to find more than 15 percent women owners of legal businesses….I firmly believe that championing diversity and equality…is worth doing simply because it is the right thing to do”.

With legal services firms facing tough decisions about cash flow, one longer term consequence of the crisis will be that not all of us will be going back to a physical office in order to work. But what impact will that have on career progression and who will be making the choices as to who comes back to the office?

Posted by Patrick Dransfield

Patrick Dransfield is the Principal at Clearway Communications and was formerly the co-founder of the In-House Community. Patrick has twenty-two years of experience working in the legal industry: as Asia Managing Director of Euromoney Institutional Investor, and then as Marketing and Business Development Director for Asia for Shearman & Sterling and White & Case respectively.

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