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On International Women’s Day 2022, Paralegal Laura Gooding speaks to three of our very own inspiring women in law to find out why diversity matters to them and how they’ve built resilience in their legal careers.
Today is International Women’s Day, a significant time for celebrating and appreciating the hard work and achievements of women worldwide.
The passing of the Sex Disqualification (Removal Act) 1919, which allowed women to enter both law and accountancy, can be praised to an extent for the advances in gender equality in our profession, as it laid the foundations to diversify the composition of the legal sector.
However, over 100 years later, there is still work to be done to achieve full gender equality in the legal sector (which includes, but is not limited to, equal pay and remuneration, equal opportunities for progression and the elimination of harmful biases and discriminative policies and traditions in the workplace), both in Northern Ireland and across the world.
Achieving these ends relies on law firms and the bar taking proactive steps towards inclusion and diversity by offering support, amending policies and procedures and fully recognising the value of women in the legal sector.
L-R: Director, Kerry McCloy; Associate, Rachel Kelly; Paralegal, Melissa Ruddock; Paralegal, Laura Gooding
Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing a fraction of Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s talented cohort of female legal professionals: Innovation and Legal Technology Director, Kerry McCloy; Dispute Resolution Associate, Rachel Kelly; and Private Client Paralegal, Melissa Ruddock. Here, Kerry, Rachel and Melissa share their insights on what it means to be a woman in the legal world, and why encouraging diversity is so important in 2022.
Kerry: I moved back to Belfast in 2011 after spending a number of years working for Matheson in Dublin. At that time, some of the large global firms were opening an Alternative Legal Services hub here. I considered this a fantastic opportunity to be involved in something new and innovative from the very outset and I have now worked in Legal Technology for over 11 years. One of the most interesting aspects of my job is that legal technology is always changing and evolving; it’s a very dynamic and exciting area of law to work in, especially with the recent judicial announcements regarding the modernisation of the NI Courts and Tribunals Service.
Melissa: I have recently joined the firm’s private client team, which is a new area for me. I really enjoy both the department’s variety of work and the opportunity to develop strong professional connections with individual clients as opposed to larger organisations.
Rachel: Well I work in Dispute Resolution, so I suppose it could be said that I enjoy a good argument!
Kerry: Diversity in the legal profession is something I am very passionate about. Traditionally, the legal sector was male dominated and from a small section of society. That has changed over the years, but more can still be done. For me, diversity encourages innovation and creativity. It allows for a contrasting range of ideas and opinions. The more diverse our firm, and the more diverse our department or our team is, the more successful I believe we will be.
Melissa: I think it is crucial to encourage diversity within the industry, the experiences and knowledge that can be gained from different backgrounds is essential not just to the legal industry but all parts of society. Diversity enables us to keep generating new ideas and to learn to develop from one and other.
Rachel: It’s so important to promote equality and diversity in all areas of life and people should progress in their chosen field based on merit and not based on outdated predetermined criteria. It’s not a one size fits all approach, clients come from all areas and walks of life.
Kerry: In almost every project I have worked on, large or small, something unexpected has happened. In my role I consistently work towards tight deadlines, so when the unexpected happens, you need the ability to take a deep breath, assess the situation and quickly find a solution to the problem. Over time, you become more resilient when these issues arise. I find it beneficial to take stock after completion of a project, identify ways to improve our processes and equally look at what we did well.
Rachel: By trusting my gut, keeping perspective and not flapping under pressure.
Melissa: I believe I have built resilience by working in a variety of areas, industries and businesses since graduating, starting in many cases knowing little or nothing about the work required but enjoying the challenge, this has ultimately helped me learn where I really want to end up in my career.
Interview conducted by Paralegal, Laura Gooding.