Gender inequality in corporate law firms in Ireland: Recommendations for reform

Devlin, Beth (2022) Gender inequality in corporate law firms in Ireland: Recommendations for reform. LL.M(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis examines gender inequality in corporate law firms in Ireland, focusing specifically on proposals to reform the profession with the aim of securing greater participation by female solicitors within senior management positions. Although women currently make up more than half of all practising solicitors, they have consistently remained significantly underrepresented in corporate law firm partnerships.

This thesis begins with an analysis of the structural and non-structural barriers that exist for women solicitors seeking to advance within the profession. These structures are both upheld and fuelled by practices that are deeply engrained in the profession, including the culture of long working hours and inaccessibility of alternative working arrangements. Consequently, subsequent chapters of this thesis examine proposals intended to address the barriers identified. The examination of these reform proposals is informed both by studies in other jurisdictions, alongside an empirical study conducted by the author with female solicitors who have experience working in corporate law firms in Dublin, Ireland. Through this study, the viability of the proposals is assessed by practitioners with relevant knowledge and expertise.

The conclusion to this thesis recommends several reforms to address barriers identified. Recommendations include an abandonment of the billable hours model in favour of models of value billing, and increasing transparency and oversight in the operation of alternative working arrangements. Equally, emphasis is placed on measures designed to increase female representation within law firm partnerships, including gender quotas and core competency models of assessment. Finally, and as a means of addressing the masculine culture of the profession, recommendations consider the practicality of unconscious bias training and internal networking events.

Alongside the central argument demonstrating the need for reform, this thesis demonstrates the consistency of the recommendations with the preferred formulation of equality: Sandra Fredman’s model of substantive equality. The broad and comprehensive nature of this model is significant in demonstrating the potential that these recommendations have in securing gender equality within the profession.

The arguments made by this thesis demonstrate the pressing need for reform in corporate law firms in Ireland. In doing so, this research intends to contribute to and extend the existing literature in this area by proposing reforms designed to reduce instances of gender inequality within the profession.

Item Type: Thesis (LL.M(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Law
Supervisor's Name: Cannon, Dr. Catriona
Date of Award: 2022
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2022-82859
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 May 2022 13:55
Last Modified: 10 May 2022 13:55
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82859

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