Foreword: Laura King

Laura King is a partner and Clifford Chance’s Global Head of People and Talent. She shares her thoughts on the importance of gender diversity in law firms and legal departments today, and how to achieve it.

There is a wider range of opportunities for women in business than ever before. To maintain and increase the momentum that’s been built over several decades, it’s incumbent on senior leaders across all industries to continue pushing for sustainable improvements.

In the legal sector, we are making progress towards gender equality, but few firms would say they have done enough. A critical component to closing the gender gap is transparency – including annual public reporting that details the progress being made. At Clifford Chance, our goal is to have women make up at least 30 percent of our partnership. As of today, that proportion is 18 percent globally, though with significant variations in regions, with our London office at 22 percent and Asia Pacific at 28 percent. We’re on a path forward but there is still a lot more for us to do.

Sustainable progress will only be achieved by taking a holistic approach to gender equality. Generational change will help us shift the balance, but we cannot wait on that.

Clear policies should be the starting point. They must be actively and openly endorsed by senior leadership. Education should also be a priority, especially training programs that address unconscious bias and other gender and diversity issues. Law firms and legal departments must work to support managers and colleagues in creating a truly inclusive and meritocratic environment.

The reason we joined with The Legal 500 and GC magazine in publishing this book is a profound belief that more role models, like the women profiled on the following pages, are needed to help advance the cause. We hope everyone who reads this book will benefit from the experiences of others who have been there before them – particularly when faced with career-forming decisions. We also hope the ideas and examples shared will provide a “road map” that lays out different ways for younger lawyers to reach their chosen destinations.

My advice for law school students and junior lawyers is to seek out outstanding role models and make them your mentors. Develop a strong support network that will help you succeed. And feel empowered to make your own way in the world.

Laura King
Global Head of People and Talent, Clifford Chance