For the first time in history, Northern Ireland’s top four legal leaders are women

NI’s Legal Leaders Urge Women to Scale the Career Ladder

Pictured from l-r are: NI’s first female Attorney General, Dame Brenda King, the first Lady Chief Justice, Dame Siobhan Keegan, NI’s second female Justice Minister, Naomi Long, and President of the Law Society of NI, Brigid Napier – the 10th female to hold the position in its 100 year history.

One of Northern Ireland’s top legal leaders is calling for the profession to be a ‘pioneer of change’ by addressing the gender imbalance at the top of the sector’s career ladder.

Resonating with the ‘Break the Bias’ message of International Women’s Day, Brigid Napier, President of the Law Society of NI is concerned that women hold only three out of every ten partner positions in private practice.

The leadership imbalance is more stark when compared to the breakdown of new lawyers joining the profession, with women accounting for over two-thirds of the most recent intake of 122 entrants.

“While attracting and recruiting younger women solicitors is not a problem, retaining and encouraging them to achieve their career potential is of wider concern,” said Brigid Napier.

“There’s obviously a glass ceiling that halts those in some private practices, so it’s time to raise standards across the board to ensure female solicitors have a valid and equally accessible career path as their male counterparts.

“It is also important that the legal profession reflects and mirrors society just like it does in other justice professions such as policing.”

A recent Diversity & Equality Membership Survey conducted by the Law Society of NI identified issues such as the lack of family-friendly policies, a ‘long hours culture’ and gender pay imbalance as the career red lights for many women.

“We can dwell on the issues, but it’s time to shake things up and drive the change which will support and retain our top female talent,” Brigid added.

The Law Society President is calling for more targeted mentoring and training, particularly for those who have had maternity leave or a career break, to help establish a better work/life balance. Offering alternatives such as hybrid or flexible working and ensuring this is not viewed as detrimental to career development, is also vital.

As the 10th female President of the Law Society in its 100-year history, Brigid Napier joined forces with NI’s first Lady Chief Justice, Dame Siobhan Keegan, the first female Attorney General, Dame Brenda King, and the second female Justice Minister, Naomi Long to reinforce how change is not only within reach, but is a reality.

“The fact that the top four positions in law are currently filled by women, is not only historic but it proves that change is happening.  Each of us has had to overcome personal hurdles and juggle demands, but together we want to challenge perceptions, mentor and support others, and motivate existing and future generations to excel within this great profession.”