Travers 'discriminated against pregnant trainee', tribunal hears

  • Print
  • Comments (45)

Readers' comments (44)

  • I think the real story here is that such a claim actually made it into the public arena. God knows how many discrimination suits against the MC have been settled quietly with a suitcase full of cash.
    The question is whether (i) TS refused to settle because they feel strongly that they did nothing wrong, (ii) TS refused to settle because the claim was too high, or (iii) the lady wanted it to be public.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • "The firm claimed its partners had received diversity and equal opportunities training, while King told the tribunal that a review of the firm’s trainee-scheme policies by the SRA had shown no cause for concern."
    The sentiments implicit in those comments did make me smile on a Friday afternoon in the office.... If those are two principal points of the Travers' defence, my pro bono advice is to settle now.... You are welcome Travers chaps and (possibly fewer) chapesses.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous | 15-Feb-2013 4:18 pm: Travers Smith made up a corporate lawyer just last year whilst she was on maternity leave - it can and does happen.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • They went on a ski trip?! Doesnt sound all bad.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • It is shaming on the profession that discrimination like this still occurs and that women are still forced to take a stand against it. It is shaming on law firms that do not step up and acknowledge their best and brightest (men as well as women nowadays) may well need to work flexibly and that does not affect their ability to bill well and do an outstanding job for their clients. We continue to hear stories like this, although as we know most settle before getting anywhere close to an open court. Having jumped ship from a dinosaur which treated me in a similar manner to Ms Tatum, albeit much further on in my career, I can report there are firms out there which do not have the same attitude and are open minded enough to appreciate good people in whatever guise they come. Ultimately the profession needs to change and firms that act in the way Travers are alleged to have done will fall behind client's and staff's needs. A brave stand by Ms Tatum which hopefully will not damage her long term prospects as it has for so many before her that took the same stance. Maybe one of the more positive "city partner" commentators will offer her a job?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • "In one case, a partner claimed in an email that a certain candidate was clearly keen on litigation because the trainee had been on the department’s skiiing trip, for which they have to pay a small amount"
    Not strictly relevant to the discussion, but I can't think of anything worse than using my annual leave and savings to go on a holiday with colleagues!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • As someone who qualified whilst pregnant at a large law firm, I can say that my experiences were generally very positive and the quality and quantity of work that I received didn't decline during that period (I had a fantastic (male) supervisor). I appreciate that all firms are different but from my own experiences, I never felt that I was at a disadvantage to my peers. I chose to leave that firm on qualification, so I will never know whether my circumstances would have been an issue but I genuinely believe that a reputation as a good trainee would have been sufficient to secure a job. However, on a slight tangent, I would have to say that trying to get back into law on anything less than a 5 day week is virtually impossible at my level of PQE if you aren't returning to the firm you have trained at. It is depressing to feel that you have worked hard to attain professional skills and a strong reputation as a good trainee, but find that the market does not accommodate a working mother. Obviously, I appreciate that firms do allow women (and men) to work part-time etc to help with their family commitments, but in terms of hiring new staff, I just don't think junior lawyers are attractive unless they are working full-time. It will be interesting to see how the case concludes.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • None of the accusations made at tribunal surprise me. What does truly astonish me is how much of the commentary in this chain, presumably contributed in the main by 'lawyers', pre-judges the outcome of the tribunal. Anonymous male parter of global law firm @ 3.26pm - I'm surprised you needed strategic discussions when you could have pre-judged their outcome so accurately. By all means criticise; but afford your profession some respect by doing so on the basis of discovered fact rather than supposition.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Good for her. Many women are discriminated against in the city - sometimes to the extent of losing their jobs - and female trainees coming up to qualification are particularly vulnerable to this because of the often informal nature of the hiring process at this stage. But many women do not complain for fear of their reputation, lack of confidence or evidence, and/or fear of the financial drain which a legal complaint might involve. Glad this girl had the confidence to stand up.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • No-one seems to have noticed that the asssessment of her abilities as a lawyer was called into doubt. The evening standard reported that she had made major errors in drafting an SPA and she was not up to it. I don't condone any kind of discrimination but I don't think we should condemn until all the evidence is heard. i am a female client of this firm and i have very positive experience of the female associates and the coroporate partners. I have not heard negative comments from the associates with whom I have worked on various deals.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • It may be true that trainees are expected to work late, that qualification decisions are made in a shoddy manner and that the head of employment did not bother to explain things to his trainee. However, this is common across the city and none of it amounts to pregnancy discrimination.
    It will be interesting to see if the discrimination allegation can be proven.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • These firms want 100% commitment to the work and the clients. In my experience of working at a top City firm, I have never heard a woman (associate, partner...) complain, even mildly, that it is late evening and she needs to go home to see her family. Work carries on with the same energy and devotion all day and into the night. I am sure that inside they are not happy - hence the big exodus of 2 years+ PQEs - but the working culture at the firm would not accept them to bemoan the lack of personal time. Once you have a child, it's only natural that your priorities have to change. Your full commitment to work and clients then turns into a balancing act with your commitments to your child. This, I am sure, pulls you down and makes you a lesser choice when the firm chooses whom to retain on qualification or to promote. Many women choose the family commitments combined with a less demanding job and quit the City firm. There are a few who remain but in my experience they do not seem satisfied with their lot.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • @ Anonymous | 18-Feb-2013 12:46 pm
    The point you seek to make is precisely the point which anti discrimination legislation seeks to outlaw and, should this ex-trainee prove her case, the tribunal will be upholding. You appear to be saying that there is an inference that being a mother will naturally impinge on that "100% commitment" of time and emotion apparently required by firm and client. To do so is insulting and effectively implies that City law is one for the men (or at least past 2 year PQE). You can be appropriately committed to your job and not in the office for 60 hours a week, just as you do not have to be all consumed by the intricacies of City law to be an effective lawyer. You may like to try it some time. There is a world beyond the dragons of the Square Mile you know (outside office hours of course)

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • As an ex associate of the firm I am not surprised by any of this. The firm has a pretty poor track record retaining its female talent generally, but the problem seems particularly acute among the women lawyers who leave to have children - few return. The firm really does have a boys' club culture, worst at partner level where there are very few women even compared with other City firms. Although I'm sad that Ms Tantum has had to bring this case it would be good if she forces Travers Smith to address its poor equality record. If nothing else Ms Tantum will show graduates looking for training contracts that although no City firm may be a particularly good place for (pregnant) women, some firms are definitely worse than others. I wish her well as becoming a mother (and presumably looking for another job) is a demanding enough time without the added stress of suing one's ex-employer for discrimination as well.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • What about the other two trainees who were not taken on, were they discriminated against too or were there just not enough places for all 22 trainees?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Is there any reason that (almost) everyone assumes that she was discriminated against? As Annonymous at 9:25 states, there were two other trainess who weren't kept on. Where I've seen this story reported elsewhere it's been said that Travers thought she wasn't up to it; isn't that reason enough not to keep someone on?
    Also, interested to see in a comment above about someone being made up when they were on maternity leave. Hardly sounds like a firm with a negative attitute towards women and/or pregnancy. I can't really comment without all the facts but I find it surprising how many people are quick to jump on Travers without them knowing anything either.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The harsh reality is that clients pay £500+ per hour for immediate availability: if they want assistance, they want it in accordance with their timing. And whilst clients might outwardly support part-time or flexible working, the second it affects them their support goes out the window.
    Let's be honest, most lawyers' jobs are not rocket-science and the reason an NQ is paid £63k at Linklaters is not because that 23 year old is a genius but because that person is committing to work all hours necessary. When I was a trainee and NQ I didn't make any personal plans between 9am on Monday and 8pm on Friday because I was paid to be available: that's the compromise you make for the money and the prestige of working in the magic circle.
    It is no different in other jobs: a researcher on Ant 'n' Dec gets paid £13k because its an awesome job, you work great hours and get to have illicit encounters with celebs; a fresh analyst at an investment bank gets paid £100k because its an awful job, you work all hours and you have to sleep with your MD to get anywhere.
    Most associates now seem to think that law firms can afford for them to work 9.30 to 5.30 (with an hour for lunch) and still pay them the big bucks - they are living in a dream world and need to understand the basic economics of running a business.
    As for "equality", why on earth should two identically qualified lawyers be paid the same salary but one is guarantee the right to go home at 5.30pm without question and the other leaves when their client says so?
    Comment

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Of all the comments here, many view the need to have systemic change of how women are treated when they present with the solely women's ability to become pregnant in the legal employment environment. The most common cry of distress calls for all of us to support women in their time of less productivity by shifting the burdens of work to others in the firm, or managing our clients expectations more "realistically", or in ways that the product is pushed out more slowly and at some or even great cost to the client.
    WOW!!
    It's now the client that will directly pay for a woman's choice? How many clients do you think will be willing to take on a firm where there is a possibility that they can not control or have to simply put up with someone's whimsical decision to slow down the litigation process.
    Further, if change is being demanded, where is the demand for change so it is not only women who are the beneficiaries of these social policies? Attitudes about men's rights to reproduce, or men's right to take over paternity leave in these same firms, or men's safety in emotional violence perpetrated against them in these firms by the female "bully's" is conspicuously entirely absent.
    Regardless of the sentiment being expressed, there is less cry for equality than a cry for special treatment, or power and control unique to women, as women.
    Some further self reflection would be helpful.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Travers have had this coming for a long time. I worked at Travers as a female associate and was discriminated against when I became pregnant. I was written off as soon as I said I was pregnant and a partner told me "not to worry about coming back". They rarely take women back after maternity leave and offer no flexible or part time working at all. Most people cannot afford to bring a claim so Travers just keep getting away with it.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I know a trainee at BLP who got pregnant during her TC - not even at the end. She said her HR were very accommodating, she timed her return date to coincide with seat change, and she's been taken on at qualification next month.
    They're not all bad, it seems...

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 per page | 20 per page | 50 per page

Have your say

Mandatory Required Fields

Mandatory

Comments that are in breach or potential breach of our terms and conditions in particular clause 8, may not be published or, if published, may subsequently be taken down. In addition we may remove any comment where a complaint is made in respect of it. These actions are at our sole discretion.

  • Print
  • Comments (45)