Withers latest to drop ‘Dear Sirs’ in emails

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By Aishah Hussain on

Reminds staff to use ‘gender neutral’ salutations instead

Withers is the latest law firm to drop the use of gendered language such as ‘Dear Sirs’ or ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ in written correspondence, opting for “gender neutral” salutations instead.

In an email to UK lawyers last week, Withers said: “When writing to a firm or company the use of ‘Dear Sirs’ or ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ should generally be avoided (although there may still be instances where it is appropriate).”

It continued: “It is usually preferable to use the name of the firm, company or partnership e.g. Dear Withers, and this is increasingly seen as an acceptable form of address. When writing to an individual, instead of Dear Sir/Madam consider whether you could write to them by name.”

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The email served as a reminder to all staff. Withers’ general-neutral drafting guidance dates back to 2020 and is available on the firm’s intranet ‘Within’ for all employees.

Nearly half (47%) of Withers’ UK partnership is made up of women.

Withers partner Katharine Landells shared on LinkedIn this week her experience with gendered addresses. “I spend a lot of my professional time writing letters — and it’s time to move on from ‘Dear Sirs’,” she said. “It’s unnecessarily gendered, perpetuates discrimination and bias, and it’s dehumanising.”

Landells posted a screenshot of an email request she made to not use ‘Dear Sirs’ on correspondence she received in relation to a recent case. “[I]n this case, it seems particularly pertinent given that the people working on this matter all identify as female,” she said.

Withers joins Freshfields, Quinn Emanuel and Clifford Chance in shaking off the legal sector’s fusty image and dropping the use of gendered language in emails.

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