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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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35 Comments

Anonymous

“Dear Sirs” is better. The non-specific plural of a potentially gender diverse group takes the masculine in English. It is simple grammar and not discrimination no matter what the woke moaners say.

(99)(32)

Theirs for them

So true.

(2)(2)

Wake up

No, “dear colleagues” is better. Ask yourself if you would feel odd if every meeting you joined started with “right ladies” regardless of whether you were all men in the room? This has nothing to do with grammar, it has to do with it having been technically accurate in days past because only men made up the partnership. The correct traditional address for a mixed audience would in any event be as CC has now put it. Also it is tedious to the extreme to suggest that it is an affront to the a English language to make minor updates like this – plainly you are not using all sorts of other “traditional” forms of English and letter writing structures, you should ask yourself why it is this specific one that you can’t handle.

(3)(2)

Andrew

A traditional neutral form of address would be something like “To all whom these presents shall come, Greeting!”

I’m not recommending it for your emails or Christmas cards though.

(0)(0)

He/she/it/X

“Dear Sir or Madam” is unfortunately outdated now, due to its binary nature.

Truly inclusive firms should be moving towards “Dear Sir, Madam, both, neither, other(s), unknown or undisclosed”, or similar.

(95)(10)

Anon

“Dear it,”….

(4)(5)

bob

“Dear They”

(0)(2)

Just stop being silly

“Dear Sirs”

(17)(3)

Shirley Knott

Such silliness. But more easily ignored than forcing people to put pronouns in their signatures.

(29)(6)

Tips for Trolls

Really poor effort at flaming, Tim. Recently your efforts have been much weaker than normal and it makes the flaming all the more obvious.

(0)(0)

Jason

If a person is completely blind, is it offensive take off my clothes with them in the room without them knowing?

Regards

Jason

(0)(0)

FlourPour

Wow. Finally, after all these years, Clifford Chance solves sexism.

(44)(4)

Erica Okechukwu

Completely. Sad it’s taken this long to change.

(1)(1)

anon

This is political correctness gone mad.

(16)(12)

Scott

This is all virtue signalling to distract from the unethical clients they represent.

(26)(2)

Dear Me!

How about

“Dear You”

(14)(1)

Anon

If chairman is now an inherently ‘masculine’ word merely because its letters include ‘…man’, then I look forward to the banning of the surely equally masculine ‘human’. And ‘woman’.

(23)(3)

Anonymous

So does that mean Clifford Chance are going to start employing trans people? Let me know if they do.

The problem is you often don’t know the gender identity of the person you are addressing in an email to a different law firm, or an individual, unless they have told you otherwise.

I do not think “Sir” is intended to be sexist but simply outdated, but law firms have simply retained its usage. However in a bid to appease to liberals that want gender neutral everything, I would avoid any presumption of title and simply address them by their first and last names, it is probably more practical than attempting to account for every single gender identity (lord knows there are many). This does however simply looks like a PR stunt by CC to jump on the bandwagon of diversity and inclusivity.

(9)(2)

Anonymous

Actually CC do employ trans people

(1)(0)

Anon

I’m a ‘money where your mouth’ person. If their push for inclusivity includes a more transparent and representative range of partners and top end lawyers, then I may be willing to recognise this as part of a positive trend.

If not, then this is just a PR stunt that costs them nothing and means even less than nothing. (i’m inclined to believe that this is the case)

(10)(2)

Sod it

I’m a “I want the best not the broadest cross-section of the nation” kind of person. I don’t care the mix of race or sex or backgrounds, I care about their brains, their work ethic, work product and ability to engage well with my clients. Putting inclusivity in the way of that can be left for those recruiting BBC presenters.

(20)(2)

They is theirs

…and as a client I’m telling you that this is what I want you to want. If you put anything less in front of me then I am going to sack you. But I will never say that publically because I cannot be bothered to defend myself publically for not being WOKE enough.

(6)(2)

Deary Me

Dear Creature in Being?

(11)(1)

Anon

Every partner in London: “Diversity matters – we won’t judge you based on how you self identify or what you believe in, as long as you look and sound like us and went to the same schools as us.”

(8)(3)

fail

My magic circle firm is chock full of BAME lawyers (well more AME than B, in fairness). They are all EXACTLY the same as the white lawyers – posh, public school, Oxbridge, polished, daddy’s a banker.

(17)(20)

Anon

Dec 10 2020 10:58am: that’s as it should be. Posh, public school, Oxbridge, polished people are the best people for the job.

(41)(14)

Hackaforte

Oooh, get you. Edgy and based and whatnot.

(0)(0)

Hackaforte

Honestly, you lot. All this huffing and snorting. I remember a guide to solicitor’s professional etiquette from 1990 saying that ‘Dear Sirs’ may not be terribly tactful in all circumstances, and ‘Chair’ is appropriate unless you’re talking about a particular person.

All of this ambiguity could be solved if solicitors stopped the irritating habit of signing-off letters in the name of the firm without specifying a contact.

(11)(2)

Rotund of Counsel

I self identify as an inanimate object.

May I suggest that in future Solicitors write “Dear Thing” when corresponding with me?

(9)(1)

Marketing guru

Quinn missed a trick to combine their transfer to gender-neutral terminology with their “dread” branding by opting to use “Sir/Madam” rather than “pathetic worms” in correspondence with the other side.

(9)(0)

THFC

“Listen up, y’all”?

(0)(0)

Mx Pixie

Assume my gender and I’ll sue you!

Go on… I dare you!

(1)(2)

Bored Millennial

So, serious question, what do they use instead of “Dear Sirs”?

I’ve tried to make our precedent bank gender neutral because ultimately it’s quicker than having to explain the rules of grammar to every professionally offended Gen Z I am now forced to deal with. In the end I just took out the salutation altogether.

Any other (serious) suggestions?

(0)(0)

Ann Ong

The best option by far is “Dear Sirs”. Confident, traditional, grammatically sound. It sends the right message.

(2)(0)

Everyone receiving letters from Ann Ong

Did you just assume my gender?

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.

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