Editor's Letter

December / January Issue #12 front cover image

After a long year it’s usually a good idea to take stock and reflect on what you’ve achieved and what you’ve still to accomplish. As 2019 draws to a close, I wanted this issue of fivehundred to look back once again at a key issue we have covered over these last 12 months – women in law.

2019 marked the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, a piece of legislation which paved the way for women to become lawyers in the UK. There’s no denying women and the profession have come a long way since Carrie Morrison and Mary Dorothea Heron became the first women to be admitted as solicitors in England and Ireland, respectively; since Helena Normanton and Mithan Tata became the first women to practice at the English and Indian Bars, respectively; since Margaret Kidd was appointed the first King’s Counsel in Scotland; since Dame Catherine Fiona Woolf DBE JP became the first female partner at CMS Cameron McKenna and Diana Parker became the first female chair of Withers; and, of course, since Baroness Hale was appointed the first woman Justice of the Supreme Court.

But while these – and many, many more – watershed moments for equality have been rightly celebrated collectively throughout the past year, law firms must not allow the development of women in law to continue at the same glacial pace over the next 100 years. Instead, legal businesses the world over must correctly recognise the women within their ranks, retain their undoubted talent, correctly remunerate them for the work they do so well, and elevate them to the leadership positions deserved.

As mentioned in previous issues of this magazine, The Legal 500 is committed to doing its bit in highlighting the many brilliant women working in the legal sector via our various guides; this is a work in progress, but my fellow editors and I promise there are more exciting developments to come in the year ahead. And yet, as we say goodbye to 2019 and prepare for a new decade to begin, I want this fivehundred to once again act as a showcase for women in law, the successes they have achieved, and the challenges they still face.

Identifying barriers to female leaders, Irwin Mitchell’s managing partner in London, Alison Eddy, explains how to create a working environment that allows you to attract the best and brightest talent, while Littleton Chambers’ Charlene Ashiru provides advice on how to balance practice at the Bar with parenthood; and Maria-Leticia Ossa-Daza, head of Willkie’s Latin America practice talks about gender and racial bias in law. We also take a look at the Mansfield Rule with contributions from Pepper Hamilton and Orrick.

But we’re not done with hearing from leading women lawyers: Lavazza GC Simona Musso speaks with senior research analyst Sara Mageit about being a woman in a senior business role – and putting the first espresso machine in space; Allen & Overy’s Astrid Krüger talks about the challenge of handing over from one generation to the next; Van Doorne’s Elisabeth Thole explains how women made tech law their own; and 5SAH Chambers’ Louisa Collins provides an insight into the life of a specialist extradition barrister. Plus, our head of in-house content, Fiona Fleming, talks to BELAW’s Jerry Tucker about securing a record A$190m settlement for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders whose wages were stolen in Queensland, Australia.

US content editor Helen Donegan graces this month’s issue with no fewer than four must-read interviews: first, A. Verona Dorch, Peabody Energy’s chief legal officer, reveals what she looks for in outside counsel and the importance of diversity; Parley Pro CEO Olga V. Mack believes in-house lawyers are leading the way with legal tech ; Arnold & Porter’s global and US heads of antitrust and competition, Debbie Feinstein and Jonathan Gleklen, talk about their team’s rise up the US rankings; and, finally, she profiles litigation powerhouse Selendy & Gay, a majority women-owned US firm.

Back on this side of the pond, UK solicitors editor Georgina Stanley talks to elite law firms jockeying for position in London’s leveraged finance market about recent key trends, and she also takes the temperature in Manchester’s legal hub, speaking to leading firms about north-shoring, the work-life balance debate, and Brexit uncertainty. Also worth a read is deputy Bar editor Will Tolcher’s report on the rising tide of litigants in person and McKenzie friends in UK courts, and yours truly highlights the best ranked sets from the 2020 guide.

But we’re still not done in this holiday double issue, as we also hear from Venable’s chief revenue officer, Gunther Schumacher, on marketing and innovation in law; IndusLaw’s co-founder Suneeth Katarki on India’s war for talent; and Ten Old Square Chambers’ Keith Plowman talks about how clerks must protect their key assets’ welfare.

I do hope you enjoy this last 2019 issue of fivehundred. We are now off for a short break but we’ll be back in February with another issue chock full of exclusive interviews and market insight. Until then, from our family to yours, season’s greetings and a happy new year.

John van der Luit-Drummond

Selendy & Gay reimagines the modern law firm

Diversity and inclusion

Amidst growing calls from clients, market consultants, and alternative legal service providers for a systematic overhaul of the traditional law firm model, ten of America’s most prominent trial attorneys banded together to re-architect law firm structure, operations, and culture.

The result: Selendy & Gay, a powerhouse litigation firm which opened its doors in February 2018, and today is one of the only elite, majority women-owned firms in the United States. In announcing its launch, the firm vowed to deploy diverse critical thinking to transform ‘the most challenging litigation scenarios into net positives’ for its …

Diversity rules: A closer look at Mansfield Certification

Diversity and inclusion

The Mansfield Rule – increasingly well-known as a national movement to increase diversity in law firm recruitment and promotion practices in the US – was created by the Diversity Lab, a self-described ‘incubator for innovative ideas and solutions that boost diversity and inclusion in law’. The Mansfield Rule originated from a winning idea from the …

In search of Indigenous justice

The Big Issue: Women in Leadership

‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders worked their whole lives without proper pay, and were treated like slaves by the state and their employers. It’s a very dark part of our history’

For nearly a century, between the 1880s and 1970s, Australia’s major industries and domestic roles – including farming, mining, fishing, and cattle ranching, as well as gardeners, kitchen staff, and many more – relied upon tens of thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander labourers. Despite their undoubted contribution to growing the nation’s economy, Indigenous …

“Strength in the US is increasingly important” – what’s driving the London leveraged finance market

Practice spotlight

Leading UK and US partners have their say on changes in the acquisition finance world

The London leveraged finance market is one of the most keenly contested in the City, with a select group of elite law firms jockeying to position themselves as go-to advisers for banks, sponsors, and direct lenders alike. The Legal 500 UK solicitors’ editor Georgina Stanley recently spoke to some of the market’s major players to …

Gunther Schumacher: The learning process – helping law firms embrace new ideas

Interview with...

Venable’s chief revenue officer says true innovation is more than a buzzword, it is in the service of a purpose, while marketing should not be confused with advertising

Please give us some background on your career to date and how you came to join Venable? I spent the majority of my career in advertising and marketing services – originally as a writer, then in client services, and finally in management. The red thread throughout my career has been around creativity, technology, and transformation. …

A rising tide sinking the courts

Events and awards

At a recent roundtable discussion, deputy Bar editor Will Tolcher spoke with leading barristers about the increasing levels of self-representing litigants and the ‘curse’ of unregulated, fee-charging non-lawyers

Years of successive central government neglect and ill-conceived, swingeing cuts to legal aid, has resulted in an increase of unrepresented people in a court system that is already at breaking point. Regardless of government spin, this is the truth of the matter, as many thousands of lawyers at the coal face of the UK justice …

Maria-Leticia Ossa Daza: Gender bias still an issue in law

Interview with...

The M&A world is tough, and more so for a women of colour, says the head of Willkie Farr & Gallagher’s Latin America practice

How would you describe Willkie’s Latin America practice? Built upon the foundation of our firm-wide culture, Willkie’s Latin American practice is known by clients for its pragmatic approach to the practice of law, one that puts the client first and forms the basis for longstanding relationships. Our lawyers are admitted throughout Latin America, fluent or …

‘Reasons to be confident’ – why Manchester’s top law firms are feeling positive

Events and awards

At a recent Legal 500 roundtable in Manchester, UK solicitors editor Georgina Stanley talked to senior partners in the market about business confidence, Brexit realities and how the city’s leading firms are continuing to attract top talent and major mandates

Georgina Stanley (GS): How do you see the Manchester legal market right now? Where do you see opportunities for growth? Ros Bever, Irwin Mitchell (RB): Manchester is a vibrant city – it is very busy. We are attracting work from outside of the region, and I think that’s a consequence of both the rates and …

Elisabeth Thole: why women led the way in data protection in the Netherlands

Interview with...

Partner and head of Van Doorne’s privacy team, Elisabeth Thole, talks about how the world of technology and cybersecurity has changed and how she develops a young team.

How would you describe the cultural environment of your firm? We have an informal and open atmosphere including the layout of our offices. We want to avoid a ‘corporate’ atmosphere and we want everyone in the firm to be themselves and develop their own ideas – this nurtures creativity. It is very pleasing to see …

From Bar to baby, and back again: Balancing practice with parenthood

The Bar

Littleton Chambers’ Charlene Ashiru opens up about the challenges of taking a break from practice for parental leave, and provides practical advice on how to prepare yourself both practically and psychologically

Parenting and practice are not mutually exclusive. The thought may seem daunting at first, not least because you may have spent a number of years building your practice and professional network only to go and take an extended period of leave; but the prospect should be seen by you and all of those around you …