Lawyers Chambers on Riley recently launched a new website.
Most prominent, is an image featuring five confident looking women, -sporting colourful corporate attire. I could not help but think of Charlie’s Angels when I first viewed the image. It is certainly a far cry from the bland and stuffy images one finds on other law firm websites.
The firm unashamedly boasts the fact that it’s a “female firm”. For example, it prominently features the title of a recent blog-post, reposted on the Women’s Agenda website, “Better get a lawyer son, a female one”, which is a reference to the Cruel Sea song, Better Get a Lawyer .
What was most interesting to me was the way that the fact that the firm is run by women is used as a selling point. Principal, Amanda Farmer recently wrote about this on the Women’s Agenda,
“We believe that, instead of trying to shape ourselves to fit the established (male) mould, we should showcase our distinctly female attributes such as empathy, resilience, perseverance and dedication. These are the hallmarks of high quality legal advice and representation and they are part of our DNA. Who better than a working mum to efficiently manage time (which almost invariably equates to cost), be calm under pressure and creatively resolve conflict?”
I think this is quite revolutionary.
Many have argued that the best way to increase female participation in the workplace is by creating more flexible working schedules. But, as Annabel Crabb points out in her book, The Wife Drought, most workplaces are structured around a traditional working unit that is male – or specifically, a man with a wife. That is, people who succeed in most professions are available around the clock, while their personal, administrative and family needs are taken care of by a ‘wife’ at home. Anyone who wants to work flexibly, or doesn’t have available to them a ‘wife’, is inevitably going to be at a disadvantage in these environments. This is a structural issue.
Enter firms like Lawyers Chambers on Riley. At the outset, there is no assumption that the employees have ‘wives’ at home. The whole business model seems to assume that their employees are more likely than not to be “working mum[s]” who have to “efficiently manage time” differently from the traditional male worker.
Organizations like Lawyers Chambers on Riley are re-writing the book. They are addressing the structural barriers women face in the workforce by creating a whole new structure. At the outset, there seems to be an understanding that their employees operate differently – not worse than, but differently – from male workers. But this is seen as strength, not a weakness.
As Farmer states,
“As women in this profession, we work harder because we have always had to go the extra mile to prove ourselves. Our standards are higher because we are called to account and explain far more often. We are underestimated by our opponents based on looks alone which is always a mistake. A crouching tiger can be a particularly valuable asset.”
Clearly Farmer is embracing women’s difference, rather than trying to understate it. This is an interesting approach that we are more likely to see more often in the modern workplace.