5 March 2020

Focusing on diversity is a must for any growing business

International Women’s Day on March 8 is often used in the business sphere to highlight how far we have come in terms of diversity but also to remind us how far we still have to go before true equality is achieved in every profession.

I have practised as a corporate and commercial lawyer throughout my career in both Belfast and Dublin, working across a number of sectors, including energy and technology and I can say that I personally have seen progress in the legal sector.

Carson McDowell is Northern Ireland’s largest law firm and we recently announced that we have reached the significant milestone of employing 100 lawyers for the first time, bringing our total staff headcount to 180.

While this was a proud moment for the firm, the element of the story that most people have asked me about since we made the announcement is the fact that more than half of those lawyers are female.

In fact, the firm has almost twice as many female solicitors as it does male and also has more female than male partners among our 26-strong partner group. This places us in a unique position in Northern Ireland and I dare say there are not too many firms across the UK and Ireland who could quote similar level of gender diversity in their workforce.

Since I joined the firm in 2010 it has been a source of great pride for me that, as a firm, we walk the walk when it comes to diversity. But there are still plenty of people who unfortunately view diversity as a tick box, rather than a strategic policy which creates a business advantage.

For us, our record on diversity makes a big difference when it comes to attracting and keeping talent. Many of our employees and partners work flexibly, and our willingness to support different models of working has been really important in helping us maintain our longstanding strategy of recruiting, developing and retaining the brightest and the best lawyers across all practice areas.

Carson McDowell has always been 100% focused on delivering for our clients and it is testament to the quality of our service that we consistently have the most NI lawyers ranked in the top bands of industry directories Chambers and the Legal 500. We are fortunate to represent a large number of commercially sophisticated local businesses and high-profile international clients operating in and from Northern Ireland.

The firm has also been good at identifying niche services not provided by other firms in the region and investing in expertise in fast growing sectors. All of this makes us quietly optimistic about the prospects for the business in 2020.

But what sets us apart is that our ambitious staff are renowned for going above and beyond to meet our clients’ legal needs. Collegiality, teamwork, diversity and respect are integral to how our people engage both with each other and with clients.

We strive to be a place where people can balance their personal lives with career aspirations, where people know that they are valued and respected.

We recognise the benefits of having a diverse team. Carson McDowell appointed its first female partner in 2001 and as I mentioned, 20 years later we now have more women than men at partner level.

This is unique in Belfast’s professional services market, but I hope that in the not too distant future that it won’t be.