Law Society President: Women Lawyers Who Work Flexibly At City Firms Are ‘Put Onto The Slow Stream’

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Law Society president Lucy Scott-Moncrieff raised eyebrows in the City last week when she suggested that some of its law firms had promoted “mediocre men” who in a true meritocracy “would never even have seen the paintings on the boardroom wall”. And Scott-Moncrieff is in no mood to backtrack as, in an exclusive interview, she tells Legal Cheek‘s Kevin Poulter how flexible working is often used against women…

The Law Society head honcho goes on to explain why she believes gender “targets” should be used to help talented women break through City law firms’ glass ceilings, before, on a lighter note, sharing details of her recent visit to Buckingham Palace with an audibly impressed Poulter.

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Flexible working and maternity leave are part of the story but not all of it. Childless women seem to struggle to get promoted too. The issue is more about partners promoting in their own image, so that a white male partnership, it seems, keeps promoting white males. Women can often be doing the same if not longer hours and getting the deals done but will be perceived as “lacking in confidence” or some such other wishy-washyness because they don’t come across the same way in the office or at meetings as their male colleagues. A baby or two at home can often make no difference to that perception; indeed women who don’t have kids can find question marks over them too from their firms once they reach a certain age.

Firms should try and value what someone is actually doing day-to-day and alongside flexible working initiatives consider that many women present their confidence and competence in different ways to men and are no worse lawyers for it.



Let’s be honest. The Law Society is as useful as a marzipan dildo, especially when it comes to City law. The dismal set of cheap-suited factota simply don’t get it.

Has any City lawyer ever given even a single shit about anything the Law Society has ever said or done?



Why don’t women, or any other group that feels these big firms overlook them, just set up their own firm? I get the whole “let’s fight from within and change things” approach, but isn’t it just better and more liberating to start a firm in your own image. Law makes it very easy to do this. Once you’ve qualified, you can just hang out your shingle. Most clients will still come to you. It’s much harder to do this in other professions. If you’re a teacher, it’s hard to just set up a school if you don’t like the current one you’re in. Or if you work in brand management for a large corporate, it’s difficult to set up a Unilever or Cadburys. But lawyers can just rent an office, club together with like-minded people and off you go. You read stories of boutiques splintering off from large firms quite a lot, but I wish there was more of them – women-only or women-dominated firms, black firms, gay firms, northern firms, firms full of people from comprehensive school, kid-friendly firms that allow you to come in when you want. A lot of lawyers want their cake and want to eat it – they want the fancy office, the prestigious firm, the guaranteed (high) pay, the clients dropped into their lap, but then get annoyed when it doesn’t all go their own way. Take control.



Yes and then all women can go to women only firms, all black people can go to black people only firms and all gay people can go to gay people only firms and no one will ever have to mix with anyone who doesn’t share their defining characteristic of choice. What a horrendous thing to say.

By all means go and set up your own firm if you don’t like the way your current one works but don’t try and combat prejudicial attitudes with more prejudicial attitudes. Aside from anything else if you try and compartmentalise things like that it just turns into a battle, and it’s not unlikely that white straight middle class men will win, given their rather large and jealously guarded head start.




“Yes and then all women can go to women only firms, all black people can go to black people only firms and all gay people can go to gay people only firms and no one will ever have to mix with anyone who doesn’t share their defining characteristic of choice.”

I didn’t say that.

I said more lawyers should take charge of their destiny and set up firms that are more progressive than these big, lumbering City-type firms.

Sure, fight for change within these firms, but they will never be suitable for everyone.

Private sector commercial law firms are not the public sector and will never be inclusive, rights-led, cuddly places. Private school types will always be in the ascendancy.

Some people will grin and bear it. Some will adapt. Some will stick around and fight. For those that can’t or won’t, break free and do your own thing or set up a boutique with others – where you call the shots.


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