‘Lean In’ to leadership

Following the recent introduction of new gender pay reporting legislation, there is more focus than ever on pay imbalances and the lack of women in senior roles throughout the UK. The legal profession is no exception.

According to the Solicitors Regulation Association, while women make up 47% of all lawyers in law firms, only 33% of partners are female. Larger firms have an even greater discrepancy, with only 27% female partners on average. While this gap is decreasing, it is not happening as fast as you might expect, considering 60% of new entrants into the UK legal profession are women.

Most law firms recognise that improving the diversity of their senior staff will boost their business, and are introducing schemes to create more flexible working opportunities and encourage more women to apply for the top roles.

However, the gender balance will only really improve once women start promoting themselves as candidates for promotion and put themselves forward for opportunities.

There is an increasingly popular school of thought, epitomised by Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, that believes women are responsible for securing their own career progression, by making sure their voices are heard and boasting more about their skills and successes.

Essentially, in order for women to succeed in a male-dominated corporate world, they need to take charge of making it happen, and tackle the anxieties and preconceptions that typically stop them from reaching the top.

Here we share our 6 tips for women lawyers who want to make the move into management.

  1. Take credit for your work

Women are far more likely than men to suffer from Imposter Syndrome; the feeling that their success is only down to hard work or luck, rather than competence, and that they could be ‘found out’ at any time. But if you want recognition, you need to be willing to both publicise your achievements and push for the appropriate rewards and advancements. Be confident in your abilities and make sure others recognise them.

  1. Don’t be pressured into being a stereotype

Women can be susceptible to being typecast, whether it’s as a mother, friend or colleague, and there’s often an unconscious expectation that they will behave in a certain way. Female lawyers need to be able to overcome those boxes people want to put you in, say no to things and not worry about being disliked. Being yourself allows you to push your own agenda without people’s bias getting in the way.

  1. Keep track of your successes

If you want to boost your reputation, it’s vital you keep a record of your professional successes and wins, as well as positive feedback from clients and colleagues. Then the harder part – you need to make sure others know about these achievements. Remind your clients and colleagues about your successes when relevant to a conversation, or send emails letting others know if you find it hard to do face to face. Make sure you cover all of your accomplishments in your regular performance reviews.

  1. Boost your personal brand

There are many different ways you can work to build a reputation as an expert in your chosen field. You could pitch to speak at relevant events, or write an article for the legal press. Lawyers are also increasingly likely to use social media, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or an online blog, to share professional content and thought leadership articles.

  1. Find a mentor

One of the classic paths to developing leadership potential is to talk to someone who’s already achieved your ambition. Whether they work within your firm or externally, most people are happy to share their knowledge and experience when approached. Your firm may have a mentorship scheme already in place, or you could try a mentoring programme offered by organisations like the Law Society or the Association Of Women Solicitors.

  1. Improve your networking

Making the effort to meet and chat to people in your profession, whether inside your company or externally, can have a significant impact on your career progression. Having a wide circle of contacts that you see regularly at industry events or informal meetings means that you are likely to hear about new opportunities sooner and will already have an ‘in’ with that company.


If you’re ready for your next move, or would simply like some impartial advice on how to achieve your ideal career, why not get in touch on 0333 370 46 16 or info@zestrecruitmentandconsultancy.co.uk.