London associates launch women’s pre-partnership network to promote talent retention

Five associates from London firms are setting up a grassroots women’s legal network in a bid to engage and promote the next generation of female solicitors.

The group, called Women In Law London (WILL) is thought to be the first of its kind. It is positioning itself as a network ‘by associates for associates’ and is targeting female solicitors at the pre-partnership level, in both private practice and in-house.

The project has been masterminded by five London lawyers: Sascha Grimm of Edwards Wildman Palmer, Suzanne Szczetnikowicz of Shearman & Sterling, Sophie Bragg of Mishcon de Reya, Ellen Hughes-Jones of Edwards Wildman Palmer and Fatema Orjela of Kirkland & Ellis.

Sascha Grimm told The Lawyer: “The motivating force behind the network is the poor retention of female talent in the profession and traditionally low female partnership and senior in-house counsel figures – issues that are now frequently cited in the press both specifically in relation to law, but also in the wider business context.”

Suzanne Szczetnikowicz added: “It’s clear that women start to take decisions about leaving the legal profession at an early stage in their qualified careers and therefore need to be offered the opportunity to meet other like-minded talent so that they’re aware of the available options before those choices are determined.

“We’re passionate about ensuring talent retention at the highest level, but we also recognise that women in law will also have individual and varied ultimate goals.”

WILL’s official launch will take place on 17 October with a networking event that will also include a speech by Fiona Woolf, Lord Mayor of London and former partner at CMS Cameron McKenna.  It will be followed by quarterly networking forums, discussion panels and guest speaker events. The group is also targeting partners and senior in-house counsel to become WILL Champions.

The Lawyer is working with WILL as its official media partner. Editor Catrin Griffiths said: “The Lawyer has always taken a strong interest in female career paths and retention, so we’re really excited to be supporting this important initiative.”

Junior and mid-level female lawyers in private practice and in-house who are interested in joining the network can register through the contact page on its website (