This month we talk Powerwomen Awards, gender pay gap and how, under Jane and Linda Woolley’s leadership, Kingsley Napley is “making it work for mothers”.
Jane, you are one of a very few women to lead a top 100 UK law firm. Under both your and Managing Partner Linda Woolley’s leadership, Kingsley Napley has experienced continuing growth and success and has received many awards and accolades, to name a few; Gold winner in the Citywealth Powerwomen Awards 2017 for ‘Company of the Year: Female Leadership (Professional Services)’ and winner of the Editor’s Choice Awards at the 2015 City Wealth Power Women Awards. What would you attribute to your ongoing success and what challenges have you faced, if any, being a senior woman in law?
All members of the firm know and understand our core values – teamwork, respect, integrity, fairness, commitment and understanding. They inform the way that we behave towards one another and are of particular value and importance when it comes to working as part of a team. My belief is that effective teamworking, i.e. sharing the responsibility for both client work and the running of the firm, means that we make it work for mothers, in particular, to continue to work and progress their careers here which is vitally important, when it comes to promoting women all the way up to the top of a partnership or other organisation. As for particular challenges, I face the same behaviours as many other women, for example asking a question in a meeting attended predominantly by men and finding the answer being directed to one of my male colleagues.
You joined the firm in 1989. What influential changes has the firm seen during this time both within the legal sector and also the within the practice areas Kingsley Napley operates within? Has the firm needed to adapt at all to meet changing demands?
By far the biggest change has been the use and development of IT. I smile to myself when I think that when I qualified no one thought we would have any real use for a fax machine! Now the rapid development of AI means that all professional service firms, and lawyers in particular – have to be at the very top of their game. Kingsley Napley LLP has always been a very diverse law firm – from Corporate to Criminal and Regulatory to Real Estate – and our ability to offer wise and discreet advice to clients, whilst having recourse to the benefits of AI, means that we remain highly competitive in the market place.
Although the gender pay gap is slowly closing, very few female lawyers reach the top of the career ladder; in fact women account for less than a quarter of partners. How do you see this issue changing in the future and what can law firms do to help overcome this issue? How is Kingsley Napley committed to diversity?
Law firms need to be more open and transparent about how they remunerate male and female staff, especially the partners. There has been much adverse comment recently about law firms being rather coy about providing data on pay differentials between male and female partners at the highest levels, on the basis that the senior partners are self-employed and exempt from providing the relevant information. If life was fair female lawyers with children would be paid more on the grounds of their greater contribution. It is not however, and we need to do a lot more to close the gender pay gap at all levels.
Your early potential as a family lawyer was recognised and you were mentioned in a Times article in 1995 as “one to watch”. What words of wisdom can you share or advice would you give to aspiring lawyers hungry for progression to reach partnership?
Never stop learning and improving. Even when you think you know the law off by heart, looking it up again often reveals something new and/or gives you a different take on a problem. Also, take your opportunities when they arise. It is all too typical of women to say “me – really?” when an opportunity comes along and we need to be both more confident and more ambitious.
How would you explain the culture at Kingsley Napley and what makes your firm unique?
I think the openness and transparency of our Management Team marks us out. Every year we take over a theatre for an afternoon for our annual meeting which we expect everyone in the firm to attend. After an address from our Managing Partner, Linda Woolley about our financial results, I as the Senior Partner will talk about our growth and development before we try and fit in as many presentations as possible from our colleagues up and down the firm. Reports on our charitable activities are always hugely popular, as is the short film that we make about people doing their jobs within the firm, especially when we show the outtakes.
How do you unwind from the ‘day job’? What hobbies or interests do you have?
I was born with a deep-rooted love of horses. I rode any time I could as a youngster and now I am not quite so brave, I breed thoroughbred horses for flat racing. For me there is no better antidote to stress than spending time with and watching the mares and foals and working out which one is going to win The Derby …