Do women finally have space to thrive in the legal industry?

The Law Society has recently released its Annual Statistics Report, covering trends in the solicitors’ profession in 2021.

The statistics are eye-opening, including the fact that more women than ever are becoming solicitors. As of July 2021, women made up 53% of those practising in England and Wales. Despite this, the numbers at the top are still skewed in favour of men. Only 18% of women in private practice are partners, compared with 35% of men.

While it is encouraging to see that things are changing and the legal industry is becoming more gender-diverse, it’s clear that there is still work to be done.

Instead of focusing solely on making the gender balance of partnership equal, isn’t it about time that we stopped measuring success based on partnership alone? There are many other ways to succeed as a lawyer that do not rely on an outdated hierarchy, a rigid structure, or a lack of flexibility.

A new way of doing things

 At Setfords, we have been proponents of this alternative route to success for many years, having been one of the UK’s first consultancy-based law firms. Our ultimate aim is to give lawyers the chance to achieve whatever success means to them. For some, this is big billing; for others, it’s flexibility or work-life balance.

We’ve done away with the partnership model because we believe there’s simply no need for a hierarchy. While it is motivating for some, most lawyers find the race to the top exhausting. Instead of this outdated structure, every one of Setfords’ lawyers is in charge of their own clients, schedule, and career, and they’re trusted to get the job done without constant supervision.

It’s clear that the Setfords model is an attractive prospect, as our lawyer numbers have exploded in the last few years. Currently, we are home to over 400 consultant lawyers, are in The Lawyer Top 100, and have recently been named as ‘The Platform Firm to Watch’ in a recent Codex Edge report.

A space for female lawyers to thrive

While the Setfords model is popular among lawyers as a whole, it is especially so amongst women. Our most recent statistics put the firm’s lawyers at 63% women, a figure above the sector’s overall average. It’s clear that when lawyers have the freedom to do their job in the way that works for them, gender disparity for women is no longer a problem.

Consultancy has several clear advantages over partnership. With no hierarchy, our lawyers don’t need to worry about office politics or climbing the ladder. They can be successful on their own terms, which is undoubtedly an attractive prospect not just for women but also others who often feel limited by the rigidity of traditional firms.

One such lawyer is Jane Lockyer, who was a partner before she turned to consultancy at Setfords over ten years ago. She says:

“Freedom to work when and how I like makes my working life so much more pleasant. I could not go back to being a partner at a traditional law firm.”

Consultancy is the answer

Consultant lawyers across Setfords echo Jane’s sentiment. Darren Firth says:

Having experienced both equity partnership and employment as a solicitor, consultancy felt like a happy equilibrium of complete autonomy but without the burden (and inherent financial risks) of managing a private legal practice.

It’s clear that consultancy trumps partnership for lawyers who have experienced both. So why is there still such a focus on that race to the top? At Setfords, we believe that happier lawyers produce better work, and that happiness often comes from removing the hierarchy and everything that comes with it. When lawyers are freed from billing targets, office politics, arduous schedules, and management responsibilities, an environment is created for everyone to thrive. And, with predictions that a quarter of all UK lawyers could be working at fee share firms within three years, there has never been a better time to get ahead of the game and join us as industry leaders.


Is consultancy for me?

If you want to find out more about becoming a consultant with us, get in touch. We are happy to conduct interviews remotely for suitable, UK-qualified candidates with five or more years’ experience. If you’re a good fit, you’ll be joining a team that was created for lawyers to do their best work.

The next step towards a better way of working…

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        This allows us to send you the information you need to know about consultancy

        This enables us to get in touch and discuss life as a Setfords consultant

        Currently, we can only work with lawyers qualified under one of these regulatory bodies