Editor's Letter

March / April 2020 issue front cover image

Welcome to the joint March/April issue of fivehundred. It can’t have escaped anyone’s attention that March is Women’s History Month and, on 8 March, we also celebrated International Women’s Day, with this year’s theme being ‘Each for Equal’. In short, we are all responsible for how we think and how we act, each and every day, both individually and collectively. We are all the sum of our parts; by challenging stereotypes and fighting bias, all of us can positively impact our professions and wider society to help build a gender-equal world.

Of course, actions do speak louder than words, and the sobering reality is that, in many respects, gender equality is still maddeningly out of reach. The fact that, in 2020, we still need an official day – and, indeed, month – to remind us of the incredible contribution women make to society demonstrates that we still have a long way to go. However, rather than dwell on the significant work still to be done, this month’s fivehundred instead showcases an abundance of great stories about great women doing great things.
For example, four of Norton Rose Fulbright’s nine US Management Committee are women, three of them from minority backgrounds. In recognition of this strong example of female leadership within one of the largest global law firms, we profile each of these women’s practices and management responsibilities, and ask about their experiences as women in the legal profession.

Staying stateside, Jami McKeon, firm chair at Morgan Lewis, the largest law firm in the world led by a woman, shares her thoughts on women in the legal profession; DLA Piper US’s Ann K. Ford speaks about creating a global competitive edge, and the challenges still facing women attorneys; and Selendy & Gay’s co-managing partner, Jennifer Selendy, talks about creating a culture of excellence.

From here in the UK, Caroline Greene, Brown Jacobson’s new senior partner discusses firm leadership, #MeToo, Brexit, and the importance of listening to your people, while Sarah Henwood, CEO of Thomson Snell & Passmore – the world’s oldest law firm – talks about standing the test of time.

Turning to the client side, Meredith Moore, global diversity and social responsibility director, and Robert Lennon, chief business development and communications officer, explain how Weil has transformed its approach to diversity in client pitch activity and achieved measurable results. Meanwhile, GC Anat Hakim speaks about making the move in-house, and how she works with outside counsel.

From Australia, we hear from HFW’s Stephanie Lambert in Sydney and Jo Garland in Perth about why partnership and parenthood should not be mutually exclusive, while Ashleigh DoRozario, a legally blind lawyer at Potts Lawyers in Queensland, writes passionately on why lawyers with impairments need to lead by example to destigmatise disability.

Sticking Down Under, Melia Benn, one of only two practising Indigenous women barristers at the Queensland Bar, speaks about her pathway into law, the obstacles she’s faced as an Indigenous woman, and what the Australian legal industry can do to improve Indigenous representation.

Finally, as we move into April, we will also be regularly publishing articles on how the global legal profession is adapting to the Covid-19 pandemic. Keep up to date with all firm and chambers news and opinion on the outbreak of the virus here.

I hope you enjoy the content above, as well as the additional content you will find among these pages online, and please stayed tuned for more exclusive content focusing on diversity and inclusion coming very soon!

What international law firms can learn from Asia Pacific’s response to Covid-19

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Kudun & Partners shares its experience of adapting to remote working, social distancing, and other business challenges in the face of the coronavirus pandemic

The global Covid-19 pandemic has forced many countries into varying degrees of lockdown. Individuals performing jobs that are not essential to provide healthcare, food, and essential goods are largely working from home. This includes lawyers, who are now performing the majority or entirety of their work remotely, perhaps for the first time.  Asia Pacific is …

Top tips on working through the coronavirus pandemic

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Members of Falcon Chambers provide property practitioners with best practice advice for business continuity during the lockdown

The transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and the Covid-19 illness it leaves in its wake, has led to government advice, now reinforced by legislation, that has had a greater impact on our way of life than most of us have ever before experienced. We property professionals have had to adjust our working practices as a …

An uncertain time for pupil barristers during quarantine

Communication is key in reducing the anxiety of pupils, says Genevieve Reed, a criminal barrister and secretary to the pupillage committee at Red Lion Chambers

One key concern for all chambers during these uncertain times should be the welfare of their pupils. The key issues for pupils during this lockdown, much like the rest of the profession, will be their health, finances, and their practice, but the latter two will be felt acutely by pupils. Criminal pupils, under normal circumstances, …

Managing lockdown: A perspective from the criminal Bar

Tom Forster QC details the actions taken by Red Lion Chambers to stay one step ahead of the coronavirus, thereby protecting staff and clients, and ensuring business continuity as the pandemic develops

On Friday 20 March a friend posts on WhatsApp: ‘Can you do barrister in lockdown?’ Yes, no, and up to a point, I reply. This assessment was made good on Monday 23 March at 7:00 am when the Lord Chief Justice (LCJ) issued a statement announcing that no jury trials should take place unless it …

The self-examination needed to take silk

Interview with...

New silk Deshpal Panesar QC talks about the challenges of the QC appointment process, what he would change about it, and whether it is all worth it in the end

There is a sort of miracle about most careers at the Bar. The fact that every year, cadres of people choose to cast free of the security of a salary, a defined career, paid leave, or the support of an institution, to pursue a career at the Bar, is remarkable enough. All the more so …

Fighting for the next generation of indigenous talent

The Bar

Melia Benn is one of only two practising Indigenous women barristers at the Queensland Bar. She was called to the Bar in 2018, and has a dual practice in both Endeavour Chambers, Cairns and Griffith Chambers, Brisbane. The Legal 500’s Head of Inclusion, Equality, and Culture, Fiona Fleming, spoke with Melia about her pathway into law, the obstacles she’s faced as an Indigenous woman, and what the Australian legal industry can do to improve Indigenous representation

FF: Tell me a little about what it was like for you growing up in Far North Queensland, and what it was that made you want to be a lawyer? I grew up in a place called Gordonvale and there are parts of when I think about growing up in Far North Queensland that can …

It’s all about engagement – in our clients, our people, our communities

Interview with...

Morgan Lewis is the largest law firm in the world led by a woman. In this interview with US editor (content) Helen Donegan, firm chair Jami McKeon provides insight into her plans for her second term in the role, reveals what most challenges and excites her in her work, and shares her thoughts on women in the legal profession

The firm has changed dramatically since you first became chair. Has your focus changed for your second term and, if so, what is your main focus now? It is certainly correct that our firm has changed dramatically. Expanding in practice areas and locations where our clients most need us has led to us growing by …

We don’t grow simply to grow

Interview with...

Helen Donegan, US editor (content), speaks with DLA Piper’s Ann K. Ford about the launch of a tech-focused financial regulatory practice, creating a global competitive edge, the challenges still facing female attorneys, and the firm’s Leadership Alliance for Women

On January 22, DLA Piper announced you have become the sole US chair and global co-chair of the firm’s Intellectual Property and Technology (IPT) practice. Can you tell me a bit more about your move into this role in addition to other roles you hold within the firm? I have been in leadership roles for …

Talented people look for meaning in their careers

Interview with...

Jennifer Selendy, Selendy & Gay’s co-managing partner, speaks with Helen Donegan about the firm’s recent successes, creating a culture of excellence, and the challenges facing women in the legal profession

In recognition of the firm’s two-year anniversary, can you start by telling us about the key successes for Selendy & Gay to date? We set out to build something different and something that could drive excellence and a collaborative, client-centred service. So, the quality of the practice we’ve built over these past few years is …

There are too few senior women leaders, but the tide is turning

Interview with...

Caroline Green, Browne Jacobson’s new senior partner, talks to John van der Luit-Drummond about firm leadership, #MeToo, Brexit, why the High Street isn’t dying, and the importance of listening to your people

You were Browne Jacobson’s first female partner and were recently elected its first female senior partner. How have the attitudes towards women in law, and women leaders, changed during your career? There is no doubt that attitudes towards women in law have changed dramatically since I qualified as a solicitor in 1984. As part of …