Hot 100: bringing hidden stars to light

Welcome to The Hot 100 2013: as you’ll see, this year we’ve devoted a lot of space to our highly anticipated feature.

Catrin Griffiths

But there’s more; in our extended treatment we have video interviews with no fewer than 80 of the participants in the Hot 100.

This took three days of shooting – and a lot of coffee – back in December. What’s so fascinating when you get so many high-achieving lawyers in a room is how they interact with other people. One very grand participant would only speak to other lawyers; the ‘staff’ – aka our art and production team – were ignored. Another was so abrupt that she blanked everyone in the room and occasionally barked the odd response while fiddling with her BlackBerry. Both, you won’t be surprised to hear, were hard work to interview. Sometimes this lack of social skills can backfire; I’m reminded of a previous Hot 100 photoshoot when a City managing partner brusquely and wordlessly handed our art editor his coat. He didn’t get the best lighting after that.

But you won’t be surprised to hear that aside from these charmless individuals, our Hot 100 lawyers were uniformly delightful. And despite some anxiety on their part, their personalities really come through on the videos.

Even better, we’ve got 46 women this year. And here’s the thing: not one of them put themselves forward. When lawyers blithely talk of meritocracy when it comes to gender in the law, consider this. One household name firm nominated five lawyers. All were men. We ignored their submissions, by the way, and went with our own research; the female lawyer we picked is outstanding in every way. When we mentioned her name to senior people within the firm they collectively clapped their hands on their foreheads and agreed: yes, she was indeed a superstar, both in client work and in mentoring younger members of the team. And yet, this firm at no point realised that it had ignored an entire gender in submitting its nominations.

The fact that we got to 46 women in the Hot 100 isn’t because we had institutional help. We went out there and found them. What does that tell you about the invisible barriers senior women face in the workplace?