Firm Appoints First Female Senior Partner in 256 year history

A Midlands’ law firm, Sydney Mitchell, which was founded over 250 years ago, has appointed its first female senior partner.

Karen Moores, who has been a partner at the city centre firm since 1998, has taken over the reins from Div Singh who stepped down from his role after 11 years at the helm. Following her appointment, Karen has been described by her peers as ‘tenacious’, hard-hitting, but also known for her ‘compassion’ and ‘understanding’.

Karen said of her appointment:

“I feel very honoured and privileged to have been appointed senior partner of the firm. I strongly believe that our commitment to our staff and our clients, going that extra mile, is our core strength. I thank Div for his dedication to the firm and direction over the past 11 years.

“We have seen many changes in the legal profession and as a firm have invested in our people and technology to provide the best tools for our staff and in turn provide the best service and efficiency for our clients. We are pleased with the growth the firm has seen over the past five years and will continue to invest in our people and put our clients’ interests at the heart of our business.

“Indeed, we have a new Immigration Team joining the firm in May, plus the expansion of our corporate team and further developments within our conveyancing department. We are excited with our vision for the future and I am looking forward to the further growth of the firm.”

Another female senior appointment has been announced this month which sees Yorkshire based legal firm, Raworths Solicitors, employ Ann Laverty as its head of property.

This appointment is a new position following the firm encompassing both its residential and commercial services into one division.

Previously head of residential at Lupton Fawcett, Laverty has experience in leading a large team and is skilled in both residential and commercial property work.

Ann commented on her new role, she said:

“This role represents a great opportunity for me. Raworths has an excellent and trusted reputation and this new property structure will enhance client’s experience, providing them with a comprehensive, more agile service.”

Zoe Robinson, Managing Partner at Raworths said:

“Ann’s appointment and the linking of both property units illustrate our commitment to our clients. We are striving to offer a seamless, comprehensive property service that can meet the most diverse portfolio.

“This move will ensure we are delivering the very best advice with the best team. Importantly by having one focused department we can deliver a seamless and consistent service whilst offering great breadth of knowledge.”

However, diversity in the legal profession is a continuous challenge, as earlier this year The Council for Licensed Conveyancers launched a project to support its regulated community in developing more formal measures to promote diversity.

Chair of the Specialist Property Law Regulator, Dame Janet Paraskeva, spoke at the CLC’s Annual Conference in London at the beginning of the year saying:

“Our monitoring of the individuals working under CLC regulation reveals a persistent challenge in relation to career progression for women and participation overall by black and minority ethnic people. “We need to see what we can do as a regulator to have more impact and better promote diversity.”

Whilst March 8th marked the annual International Women’s Day, the Law Society research indicates that gender equality still needs a more prominent position in the legal sector as there is a clear gap between women in law and women in senior leadership roles.

Christina Blacklaws, Law Society President, said:

“The profession has made great strides over the past hundred years but there is still a long journey to gender equality, particularly at senior levels in certain regions of England and Wales.”

Along with regulators and other bodies tackling diversity in the sector, on the recruitment front, demand for diverse skilled legal professionals is growing outside the capital, despite there being a skills shortage – especially in conveyancing, according to Clayton Legal 2018 Salary findings.

However, more and more firms are opening offices and existing firms are expanding outside of London. Midlands based conveyancing firm, Aconveyancing has expanded and recruited new talent.

Whilst Lincoln- based conveyancing firm, Fletcher Longstaff has also expanded its empire by moving premises four times in four years.

Adam Cheal, Founder and Managing Director said:

“We’re really excited to be moving into our new premises. After four years of moves, we’re hoping this is our permanent home.

“Our aim to be the leading conveyancer in the East Midlands and beyond by focusing on customer experience and technology means we now offer those working with us an easier, less stressful experience. Traditionally, conveyancing has been one of the key moments in a property buying process that hold up the completion.

“Through our focus on streamlining services, such as adopting e-signatures, providing customers with apps and leaning towards an all-digital approach, we are able to turn round files much more quickly.

“The conveyancing world is due a shake-up and the fact that we are expanding this quickly is evidence that these changes are welcome.”

Furthermore, national law firm, Keystone Law, which offers conveyancing services, has enjoyed a huge increase in revenue, rising more than a third to £42.7m due to strong recruitment of new lawyers during 2018-2019 financial year.

Keystone has been recruiting senior lawyers, called ‘principal lawyers’, who are contracted to Keystone – which has increased the firm’s principal lawyers headcount by 14%, with numbers rising to 277 from 244. Many of the recruits at Keystone have been attracted by their flexible working culture and the fact that they can keep 75% of fees earned.

Although the legal industry shows promise in terms of growth and expansion, the profession still has a long way to go before reaching a diverse community.

As a conveyancer, do you think diversity is still an issue in the legal profession? Has your HR team adopted new measures to encourage greater diversity in the workplace?

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