JWSS leads the way for firm gender diversity

March 1, 2015

Recent media reports that law firms will fall behind if they fail to promote women. According to an article in last week’s Evening Standard, “Business advisers said firms that fail to improve gender diversity risk becoming “out of step with the modern world,” and will be in danger of “being overtaken” by competitors with more female leaders.”

The majority of partners at JWSS are women, in contrast with the statistic highlighted in the Standard’s article, which notes that women account for less than 1/5 of full equity partners in the City’s top ten law firms. A dynamic boutique law firm, JWSS was founded in the spirit of creating a collaborative environment where eachfee-earner’s independent judgment was respected and valued. The collaborative environment at JWSS results from the firm’s commitment to gender diversity. This atmosphere also results in better advice and outcomes for clients.

Sacha Schoenfeld, a founding partner, was motivated to start JWSS mid-career in part due to her frustration with the ‘old school’ approach to running a firm, which she encountered in her years at various firms throughout Europe. “There is a particular way things are done in a law firm, and those initial decisions have generally been made by men,” Schoenfeld reflects. The consequent paradigm is a top down organisational structure where billable hours are paramount and collaboration is not always valued. This can be detrimental to clients, who might be receiving advice from solicitors with a greater tendency to work alone and for more hours.

“At JWSS we do not emphasise the rule book and billing hours over and above everything else. We nurture an independent spirit and trust people and their ability to get their work done. That freedom enables our members to work together to be the best advocates they can be.”

Part of that encouragement, Schoenfeld notes, is mentorship. A group, which also recognises this need, is Women in Law London (WILL), a networking program linking mid-career women legal professionals with mentors in partnership or senior in house counsel positions in London. Groups such as these hopefully will have an impact on the state of gender diversity in the legal industry in London and elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

For this generation, both men and women need to be given an opportunity to develop their careers, which does not adhere to the traditional breadwinner and partner at home model. JWSS is a leader of this change.

Emily L. Mahoney



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