WIPR Influential Women in IP 2020
Diversity in law www.worldipreview.com
The great exodus
Bullying, a dearth of opportunities and lower
pay are just some of the reasons why the legal
profession is bleeding its minority groups.
Sarah Morgan investigates.
hen I started writing this feature, I
thought it would be like any other.
Without getting emotionally involved,
I’d briefly introduce the problems,
discuss them a little using quotes and statistics, and
provide the possible solutions, before tying it up with
a neat little conclusory bow.
That’s not what happened. I got caught up in the
stories and the figures. There’s no single answer to why
women and minorities are leaving the legal profession
in droves and there’s no simple way to halt it.
We think of the legal profession as traditional, but
still forward-looking and willing to adapt. Why then
have one in three women been sexually harassed in a
workplace context? Why is the legal profession in the
UK plagued by a “culture of fear” around reporting
sexual harassment and bullying? And why does the pay
gap still exist? These are questions I want answers to.
So, instead of a “normal” feature where I set out
the options to solve the problem, I’ve decided instead
to provide the stories of women, both named and
unnamed, who have experienced discrimination,
harassment and bullying. Backed up with statistics,
this should hopefully highlight the issues at the heart
of this dilemma and show this is not a problem for a
An insidious issue
“When I first graduated, it was common for my firm
to have Friday night drinks with the partners. This was
basically a way to socialise with the partners and be
seen—because this was largely how work was allocated.
“Combine that with a lot of alcohol and … nothing
good happened,” says Jayne Durden, founder of
That’s not her only story, but it’s one that sadly
rings true for many.
She adds: “At the same firm I was once asked to
come to a client meeting (I was so flattered) and told
to ‘wear that red skirt of yours because the client will
like it’ (I was crushed).
“Later, when I came into a client meeting, I
was asked to take the coffee order, completely
undermining the role I thought I had in leading one
aspect of work for this client.”
Two in five of the respondents to WIPR’s survey
said they’ve felt discriminated against during their
time in the legal profession. Only 14% of those who felt
discriminated against reported the discrimination. For
those who do report, the consequences can be grim.
“I reported it, but not officially. I spoke about it
with a department head but I refused to file a formal
report as those involved in the discrimination were
involved in decisions affecting whether I would be
promoted,” says one respondent.
Another adds that even though she did report
the discrimination, nothing was done. She says: “I
was told they would do an investigation, but all the
investigation included was talking to the person the
complaint was made against and it turned into a ‘he
said, she said’ situation.
“With the other person being senior, the firm took
Jean Lee, president and CEO of Minority Corporate
Counsel Association (MCCA) in the US, believes this is
almost par for the course for the majority of minority
lawyers. “No-one will ever talk about it openly, because
it’s detrimental to your career,” she says.
Women I know
who are leaving
the law are doing
they don’t feel
that they can
within the legal