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On International Women’s Day Maura Butler blogs about the Law & Women (L&W) Mentoring Programme
The concept of a Joint Law Society of Ireland and Bar of Ireland Law & Women (L&W) Mentoring programme developed when those professional bodies met in collaboration with The Irish Women Lawyers Association (IWLA) in late autumn 2015. The meeting had been in response to the writer’s correspondence with both professional bodies about what the two professions could do, to create and sustain parity democracy for women lawyers in the legal profession of Ireland.
The backdrop to this conversation stemmed from IWLA membership, comprising women solicitors, barristers, academic lawyers and law students who had been requesting that there should be proactive career progression supports for women lawyers. Also, the outgoing Chairman of the Bar Council had that summer referenced the high number of young women barristers who were struggling to succeed at the Bar.
Mary Rose Gearty SC, as primary representative of The Council of the Bar of Ireland, serendipitously profiled a successful mentoring project that had occurred in Northern Ireland (NI). Helen Stanton, an executive coach and mentor had designed a series of successful mentoring schemes for women in large corporations and bodies was familiar with the rollout of that successful NI programme.
The first iteration of the project commenced as a pilot phase with 16 Mentor/Mentee. It was universally approved and then became incorporated into the membership policy of each of the professional bodies at the commencement of 2017 when the same training was rolled out to larger numbers. Training was delivered by Hannah Carney, a former lawyer and Partner, now practising as an executive coach, mentor and independent consultant. It coincided with a historical watermark where women solicitors had become 51% of the profession. The third iteration of this project has just commenced with the mandatory training for mentors and mentees. There will then be a matching process for this mentee-lead programme.
Mentees from both professions hail from private practice and in-house/public sector; practice life is mirrored with participants from those at the early career stage to those at an advanced stage. Many solicitors are looking for support in moving from private practice to in-house; other lawyers are returning to work or are focused on career advancement. Priority in the selection process for mentees is given to those applicants who do not have an existing mentor within their profession.Typical mentors are senior solicitors in private practice and in-house/public sector and senior barristers and members of the judiciary.Mentors and mentees enter an agreement to ensure clarity of expectation, mutually agreeing short monthly meetings or longer bi-monthly meetings over a 12 month period.
L&W Mentoring has helped mentees in lots of ways: growth in confidence, improved professional relationships, identification of new opportunities and in some cases, changing roles. Mentors have been enabled to ‘give back’ to their profession experiencing clarification of their own goals while developing skills they can use in their professional life.
It is joyous that Irish women lawyers are ‘doing it for themselves’ as they mentor each other embracing the theme of the 2018 International Women’s Day #PressforProgress!
Maura Butler, Solicitor,
IWLA Liaison L&W Mentoring
Maura Butler, Solicitor, IWLA Liaison L&W Mentoring
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