Our latest 60-second interview with Lex Mundi president and CEO Helena Samaha looks at diversity in the legal sector, the benefits we are already seeing and the challenges still left to tackle.
The legal sector is notorious for a lack of diversity, but this is slowly changing. What benefits are we seeing already?
There are many benefits to be gained from a fairer society all around. In our profession I think that alignment with the clients is very important and leads to many benefits, both “hard” (meeting business requirements, making more money, improving the bottom line) and “soft” (a meeting of the minds with respect to the treatment and management of your people, mutual respect and understanding). The in-house side of the legal industry has succeeded in providing many more opportunities for success for women. Clients expect law firms to succeed in the same way. Ultimately the law firms that will prevail are the ones that clients want to work with and relate to. That alignment is becoming urgent.
Your role as the CEO of a global legal network gives you a much wider insight into the issue of diversity than just one country. What are the challenges that are consistent across jurisdictions?
In the context of a recently launched Lex Mundi diversity initiative, LM WINS, we surveyed our network and key themes came up:
- Advancement: Retention and promotion of women into leadership positions
- Financial success: Business development disparity and bigger books of business passing form man to man
- Discrimination: Unconscious bias
- Retention: Loss of female and diverse lawyers to clients
- Working from home: Disproportionate burden on women working from home
How are you ensuring you’re effectively driving a more diverse workforce within your network of firms?
The law firms in our network are highly motivated to ensure a diverse workforce. To this end we launched LM WINS where we have brought external resource and expertise to help our members implement programs to achieve success, sharing experiences with each other and working towards a common goal. In addition, one of the important aspects of our network is the common values that our firms share. These are reflected in our membership criteria. This alignment of values is core to the membership and helps all of our firms to continuously improve, and we participate in this outcome.
What book are you reading at the moment?
I tend to read novels. I prefer light reading at the end of the work day, and stories that usually having an element of suspense or a thriller. I have just finished reading “The Family Upstairs” by Lisa Jewell. Before that, I read “Dark Sacred Night” by Michael Connelly.