Herbies launches trainee women’s network

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has launched a women’s trainee network, aiming to address the developmental needs of its female trainees.

The network, which the firm says is the first of its kind specifically for trainees, is designed to feed into its wider Women Lawyers’ Network and is the most junior step in HSF’s aim to support female career development at key transitions.

The network’s two key aims are to establish access to female role models, both in and outside the firms, and to help trainees make informed career decisions, although its exact activities are yet to be confirmed.

Trainees Jessica Matthews, Maryam Oghanna and Elizabeth Reeves are the network co-chairs, while with head of global arbitration Paula Hodges QC and UK & US managing partner Ian Cox are sponsors of the initiative.

According to HSF’s diversity data, 51 per cent of trainees are female, a figure which would be roughly matched at most firms. Women make up 54 per cent of associates but after that a dramatic drop in female lawyer numbers occurs, with women comprising just 19 per cent of HSF partners.

When asked why the firm was establishing a trainee network rather than focusing its efforts on its senior associates, diversity and inclusion head David Shields said: “Separate networks will mean that the schemes are more targeted. People were very clear that the challenges faced by trainees are different to those faced by associates.

“If we are really going to change the total transition from trainee to partner then we need to start early – it’s a message we heard from our trainees.

“We shouldn’t wait until they become senior associates. In line with our gender targets, one of our challenges is to strengthen our pipeline of talent sooner.”

Last year, the firm announced that it was aiming to have 30 per cent female partnership by 2019. Its current 19 per cent female partnership figure matches its makeup in 2012, although it has improved from an interim dip to 16 per cent in January 2014. 

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