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Clifford Chance ditches ‘Dear Sirs’ and ‘Chairman’ in inclusivity push

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Magic circle player calls time on gendered language in legal correspondence following similar moves by Freshfields and Quinn Emanuel

Clifford Chance’s London office

Clifford Chance has become the latest law firm to ditch gendered language including ‘Dear Sirs’, ‘Dear Madam’ and ‘Chairman’ from its legal correspondence, it confirmed today.

The magic circle player revealed it had scrubbed gendered salutations from its letter templates earlier this year as part of its ongoing efforts to foster a more inclusive culture across its workforce.

The move comes four years after Freshfields took the decision to replace ‘Dear Sirs’ with ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ in emails and legal documents, in a move the firm said it hoped would “shed light on other things that we might inadvertently be doing that risk alienating people we communicate with”. US outfit Quinn Emanuel took similar steps earlier this year.

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Clifford Chance is also encouraging lawyers to avoid gender-specific pronouns and adjectives such as ‘she/her/hers’ or ‘he/him/his’, and steer clear of nouns that assume that a person of a particular gender will perform a particular role — as is the case with ‘chairman’.

The firm says the use of gender-neutral legal docs will promote gender equality, challenge unconscious assumptions about gender roles, and help highlight that not everyone identifies as male or female.

“We are continuously collaborating with our clients to see how we can better advance our commitment to inclusion,” Clifford Chance’s global director of inclusion Tiernan Brady said. “The words and language we use matter greatly. They send a signal of our values and can have both a positive and negative impact on others and on our culture.”

He continued:

“Removing gendered language from our communications is a subtle but impactful way of demonstrating what we stand for, and I’m delighted to see these steps taken in our firm.”

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