Finding Your Feet in the Legal Industry – International Women’s Day Spotlight with Ronke

For International Women’s Day 2024, Amberjack decided to sit down with women from the latest generation to enter your workforce: Generation Z. These Gen Z women explore our latest research, ‘What Gen Z Women Want’, and share some of their own feelings and experiences too!

International Women’s Day 2024 took place on Friday 8th March, but celebrating women doesn’t stop there! For our third and final International Women’s Day Spotlight, we sat down to talk with Ronke, an enthusiastic law student at the University of Sheffield!

“Hi everyone! My name is Ronke, and that’s a Nigerian name. I am an international student from Nigeria.”

“I am 19 and in the final year of my law degree at the University of Sheffield and have recently secured a vacation scheme at a top International law firm in London (super super excited about that).”

As a student completing placements and approaching joining the workforce full time, what emotions did you feel most strongly?

“Anxiety really. There is a lot I don’t understand – tax, and a lot I don’t want to understand – tax. Outside of tax, I’ve been a student all of my life – since I was two, I find it difficult to imagine a life without teaching, assessments and grades. This is going to be a very different chapter and really, its intimidating.”

“But along with anxiety, I also feel a lot of excitement. I am used to being a student, yes, but I am also tired of being a student. Bring on the new stuff! I am excited about the new, non-assessment-related problems. I am excited to see how I solve these problems and how my character develops within this new chapter.”

We asked respondents to our International Women’s Day survey how strongly they felt they altered their behaviour around colleagues and senior staff members on a scale of 1-10, the average score was 6.24.

Do you feel this is representative of Law as the industry you want to go into? In what ways do you think women entering the Legal industry might alter their behaviour around others?

“I believe everyone must alter their behaviour in some way when in a professional environment. You can’t possibly speak to your manager the same way you speak to Molly, your childhood best friend.”

“The legal industry is filled with women. A particular silver circle firm (Hint: they are best known for their arbitration and dispute resolution) boasts 50% female partners. Most firms also have gender diversity targets and networks particularly for women.”

“I think, if women are altering their behaviour, it is in a positive way. They might be more assertive in the workplace. But then again, I am not a trainee yet and this is from my limited experience with law firms. Ask me again in a year and I might have a different response. Unlikely though.”

We also asked our respondents what industries they felt were most accepting of women, with Care, Teaching, Content Production, and Retail being some of the most accepting, and Manufacturing, Engineering and Construction, and Finance voted as some of the least accepting.

Only 12% of people voted for Law as an accepting industry for women, compared to 85% for Care. These statistics are disappointing, what do you think firms can do to make Law more attractive to women?

“Commercial law and finance are quite similar in terms of work-life balance and pay. I think the legal industry is accepting of women, but the work-life balance may not be ideal for a lot of women. In many of the top firms, you work 10-12 hour days and frequently on the weekend as well. Depending on your priorities in life, this may not be ideal.”

“Law is a client-based industry. If you work in an international firm and your client in Australia needs you at 3 am UK time, you need to be up and running, 3 am UK time. If your client needs a deal done in a week, you get the deal done in a week even if it means sleeping inthe office. You don’t set the rules, the client does. Unfortunately, I do not believe that a career in commercial law can appeal to all women, and if it’s not for you, it’s not for you.”

“I do think law firms need to pay more attention to the mental health of their staff, and particularly its women. The life of a commercial lawyer is very demanding, and I understand that quite a few law firms do inquire into the mental health of their staff, but as seen from the recent case of a female partner at a multinational firm in London who is sadly no longer with us, more needs to be done!”

Have you ever been, or would you be, put off applying for a company or organisation because of the lack of gender diversity in their workforce? What are some of your biggest red flags when looking at potential employers as a woman?

“I think I would be put off by a lack of gender diversity in a firm. But, fortunately, through researching hundreds of firms over 3 application seasons, I can confidently say that that is not the case for most firms in the UK.”

“As a woman, my biggest red flag would possibly be not seeing other black women. Black lawyers make up 3% of all qualified lawyers and less than 1% of all partners. Many law firms and legal teams have 0 black partners or senior legal staff. I could not find any exact statistics regarding black women, but I don’t imagine it’s that great.”

“And through my research, I have found that quite a few firms were lacking in black gender diversity and that did put me off from applying. I really am not trying to be the first black woman to work at X law firm. Trying to find my feet in the legal industry of a foreign country is enough.”

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