Nurtured on a diet of globalisation, new technology and equal opportunity in the classroom, today’s women expect more from the workplace.
US-based LLM (master of laws) student Anna Bulman is one representative of this new generation. “The way we have been raised is quite different from previous generations,” she says, when asked about women.
“We are much more empowered and even if we can’t achieve complete institutional reform, it is reasonable to expect law firms to meet our needs halfway”
“The fact that women are getting better jobs at the start of their careers may well be evidence of them being the best and brightest candidates,” he says. “We need to adapt to this.”
According to Mr Ranson, some law firms are further down this route than others. “A lot of good things are happening in the profession,” he says. Initiatives could include establishing new career structures or adopting flexible working.
For law firms lagging behind, schools are increasingly finding ways to offer assistance. This month the University of Cambridge Judge Business School in the UK launched a three-day course titled Women in Law Leadership. Fiona Rice, the programme director, says men can attend. “The whole women’s agenda has become an issue for a lot of law firms,” Ms Rice says. “They can’t afford to lose these women.”
In the US, several law schools now offer law degrees in conjunction with women and gender studies. The LLM on women and the law at American University Washington College of Law was established in 1984.
Asked whether the next generation of female lawyers could be seen as agents of significant change, Caroline Berube, a lawyer in Asia, is doubtful. “It’s very difficult to change the legal industry,” she says. “It’s highly competitive. ”
But Patricia Saiz, a professor of arbitration and investment at Esade Business and Law School in Spain, believes things are changing.
“I see a shift from women lawyers thinking they need to sacrifice work or family life to really leaning in, and because of that determination, barriers will be broken,” she says.