Travers 'discriminated against pregnant trainee', tribunal hears

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  • You go girl!

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  • This woman is incredibly naïve if she thought that the firm's graduate recruitment spiel about "no late hours" were actually true.

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  • If the allegations are true certain people at this firm sound truly dreadful. Awful PR.

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  • My wife once worked there. A terrible environment for women by all accounts. I'm surprised these types of places are still around today.

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  • You go girl. I applaud and salute you!

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  • No-one but the parties involved can obviously provide much insight on her case but I'm surprised by the claim of general maternity discrimination - especially given the number of women at Travers on flexible work arrangements etc. I think a partner was actually made up last year while on maternity leave (which is pretty unusual for the industry).

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  • Sorry to be negative but she was naïve to think city law firms (in general) would be family friendly. I wish it was different but it is not and I fear it will never change (female law graduates take note in terms of your expectations for a family - ensure you have a salary for a 24/7 nanny or be open minded about career paths). Sure there are more senior females with flexible working arrangements but don't doubt how incredibly hard they had to work for them, that the flexibility is much more on paper than in fact (they still have the nannies) and how long they waited for the right window (not during their training contract) to get pregnant. City law firms will always be like this - very bright female graduates - there may be equally well paid / intellectually satisfying careers without this barrier so seriously consider alternatives to city law

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  • Anon at 12.36 I do not know the rights and wrongs of this case, but as a male partner in a major city firm in my 50's I am disgusted to hear it said that she was naive to expect equal treatment. She was entitled to expect equal treatment and most of us wantnt her to have it. There are enough young decent people entering the profession for us to get our way.

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  • Anonymous | 15-Feb-2013 12:55 pm I am not saying she did or did not have equal treatment. I am saying to bright female graduates at university to take into account what it takes in reality to have a successful long term career and a baby in a city law firm - and that they should consider other career options where there may be excellent pay and prospects but also a different attitude to maternity offering a more long term view of the employees potential.
    (For the avoidance of doubt my last sentence does not pre suppose that the woman in question had the potential (or did not have it) nor that any successful well paid long standing career (law or otherwise) does not require you to demonstrate absolute dedication and ability.

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  • I know of a partner in a top 25 firm who was frantically sending e-mails at 3am when she had already started going in to labour several weeks prematurely. I can’t see how this culture will change unless a) clients stop demanding ridiculous amounts of work to be conducted in skin tight deadlines or b) certain law firms stop pandering to said clients’ demands and manage expectations a bit better. Neither will ever happen for as long as profit is the ultimate motivator.
    At the end of the day, most large law firms are processing plants operating almost constantly and anybody who takes time off to have a baby is implicitly expected to work until they pop or is implicitly marginalised in favour of those with similar qualities who will/can be around to work, work, woooooooooork.
    To be brutally honest, the claimant was naïve to think that becoming pregnant whilst a trainee would not implicitly damage her chances of being kept on. If I was her I would have delayed my becoming pregnant for a while until I had a permanent role. Granted equality should mean that there should be no need to do this, but the practical reality is a little different.

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  • I am afraid this reflects very poorly on Travers Smith

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  • This incident and the comments above reinforce my intention to discourage my two teenage daughters from pursuing careers in the law.
    However well intentioned any law firm may be, the practical reality is that there will never be genuine flexibility for mothers.

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  • I am a male partner in the London office of a global law firm. We have had long and serious strategic discussions about ensuring that the law firm environment is able to recognise working mothers. The world has changed since the days of signet rings and port after a long lunch. Our clients are female, our best and brightest fee earners are female and it would be utterly naive for us to behave in a way that doesn't recognise this. Travers Smith much be a dinosaur not to have thought about this until today. I am disgusted, yet amused by a firm that probably considers itself a business.

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  • The only people being naive here are those commenting. Where in the article does it say that the trainee actually believed the stuff about working hours? The extract from her witness statement simply points out that what is said about working hours is not correct, which is exactly the type of easy and obvious point you would expect a claimant's witness statement to contain. I suspect that the informal way in which qualification decisions are generally made in city firms may leave Travers a little exposed here.

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  • Travers Smith should not be judged just yet. Lets wait for the outcome of the tribunal please!

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  • I find it rather sad that several of the comments here assume that things will never change. We are the first generation born and raised within the era of equal opportunities legislation and widespread 2-working-parent families. With that in mind, things must and will change, and in fact are already changing as the old guard move on and working mothers become the norm, both in law firms and the wider world. However, it sometimes takes brave people like Ms Tantum to challenge prejudices and outdated assumptions. I suspect this publicity may damage her personal career prospects but it may also make this firm and others sit up and take notice, and think twice about how they deal with pregnant lawyers - for that I think we have to applaud her.

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  • Sorry people but we need a dose of realism. Whilst it would be fantastic to say there is equality there simply isn't. As a woman in law I am realistic to know that as and when I decide to have children, my career will suffer. I won't be made up whilst I am pregnant/ on mat leave and my firm will not recognise the constraints of pregnancy vis a vis hours and maintaining contacts (where a lot of business will be done over alcohol). Unfair? Possibly. Still, I don't want positive discrimination or God forbid, an easy ride simply because I am a woman. I want to achieve on my own merits and if that means working that bit harder or juggling a few more basis than a make counterpart so be it. I have no idea about the circumstances here (and therefore can't comment either way really) but I would say that there seems to be a certain amount of naivety in play As a woman I understand the business decision of a firm who has invested a huge amount financially in a trainee who might want to cut their losses. Is that right? who knows? I guess it depends on whether there was a business reason to keep her on or to keep investing in her if actually she wasn't up to the job ( and that's not something I or anyone here probably knows with any certainty)

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  • Some of the comments on this thread are unbelievably frustrating and depressing. One "more in sorrow than in anger" response apparently being "Ladies find another career which will let you have babies"??! Seriously?! Best of luck to the ex-Travers trainee in question. Only when firms are shown by tribunals with teeth that they simply cannot unfairly treat female employees with the temerity to fall pregnant and continue with their career will things change. If we are not careful we will retreat to a neo-Mad Men era where professional women are confined to nappy valley once the babies come, tending solely to the careers of their men and the cares of their brood.

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  • @anon 3:26 - Maybe you should wait for the tribunal's judgement before pre-judging.

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  • As a woman who worked at Travers Smith for several years, I can believe entirely that this claim is justified (although I await the outcome of the tribunal etc etc). It was a great place to work for lots of reasons - decent work, collegiate atmosphere and so on - but fairly macho. One male partner told me that it was 'no place for a woman' and to 'get out while you can'. Female associates (myself included) were worried about becoming pregnant and were often ribbed about their sex lives by male partners. Glad that I did get out when I could.

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