Lord Sumption, the Supreme Court Judge, said that in his view it would take 50 years to achieve gender equality within the senior judiciary (and by extension the rest of the legal profession). Interestingly, 50 years ago, it was the then view that gender equality would take 50 years to achieve; and here we are today, tomorrow never comes, and nor does the time for equality it seems. As a father of two little girls, this would mean that they would be coming up to retirement before my profession deigned it right to treat them as equal. With respect to Lord Sumption, this is clearly not right and definitely not acceptable, and I dare say Lady Hale the newly appointed President of the Supreme Court might agree with me.
Nonetheless, Lord Sumption's view seems to be borne out by many in my profession, men and women alike. Law society figures show that it is about 50/50 men and women at the entry level of the legal profession, but by the time they become junior partners, then senior partners, the numbers of women dwindle, and sharply so. People raised topics like lobbying firms and governments to raise quotas, get diversity and equality as an agenda in firms, demand to increase the sub 20% of women as equity partners in major city firms and other good ideas. The only problem is that it is going cap in hand, begging for the traditional legal structure to change. However, when it doesn't suit a structure to change, then it won't, and the legal one isn't. So, if the structure won't change, then you actually have to do something else.
This is why Aria Grace Law was set up (more on that etymology for another time). My view was that there needed to be another way. If you started with a blank piece of paper, what would you do? Well, for starts you always have to have legal excellence, otherwise you fall at the first hurdle, so initially we have senior ex City lawyers in mind - highly trained, highly skilled. Next, to compete you must have low overheads, there is such good technology out there that the traditional requirement for massive buildings is relatively obsolete. So, that's a good start - what client doesn't want legal excellence at low cost? Relatively few, I'd imagine. So far so good, but some firms do this already. We need more.
Then what about the benefit for Aria Grace's lawyers themselves: well, when setting up a brand, you do need a great bunch of lawyers, bright, commercial and pragmatic. Ok, I can get those, but what about getting those that ascribe to Aria Grace Law values on Diversity and Equality? Well, those excellent lawyers can work flexibly: If our clients need a share purchase agreement negotiated by Thursday, they don't care if it is drafted on a Monday at 5.30 am or 4.45 pm, so long as they get the document when we have all agreed. And it's true - Aria Grace Law's clients don't care - in fact they are delighted that their work is being conducted by people who are happy to be working when they are working rather than thinking that they have to go off and do something else. What a great model for mums and dads returning to work, or for people who only want to work part time. Amazing. It really doesn't matter what creed, colour, sexuality you are - if you are good enough, you are good enough.
So what about the pay? Well, since we have relatively little overhead, and we can charge the clients HUGELY reduced costs compared with our city counterparts, we also can pay our lawyers 75% of what they charge out. (Can't think of anyone else who does this). Of course we keep back funds for insurance, tech, marketing and other overheads, but as the business grows, the balance of those 25%s will become profit. And we share that profit proportionately and equally, with everyone, full time, part time, one hour a week time.
So, future Clients and Lawyers of Aria Grace Law - if you want a commercial law firm with legal excellence which is low on cost and high on diversity and equality - we are here and starting to break the mould.
No other law firm or legal service provider in the world does what we do.