The “International Women and the Law” programme is one of the five “International Rule of Law programmes” the Law Society is aiming to set up and start implementing in the next three years. 

The rule of law programmes were developed so that the Law Society can respond in a more structured and consistent manner to the needs of our members, as well as the requests for assistance from foreign bars and lawyers. The Law Society’s rule of law programmes are of strategic importance so that solicitors remain a strong, independent and effective profession with a strong focus on safeguarding the rule of law, protecting human rights and preserving fundamental freedoms. These programmes aim to showcase the public interest work carried out by the Law Society, which strives to advance the rule of law and human rights, through building the legal capacity of the legal sector and judicial system in the jurisdictions where we work (see link here).

The International Women and the Law programme (IWIL) will strive to address matters relevant to women’s rights and gender equality internationally within the legal sector and the judiciary. It aims to achieve the promotion and support of gender equality in the legal sector, striving to level the playing field for women, in particular female lawyers, judges and prosecutors. Activities such as exchanges, capacity building training and research could also help to strengthen the solidarity linkages between women lawyers in the UK with their fellow lawyers in foreign jurisdictions.

On the 31st May 2017, the Law Society’s Deputy Vice President Christina Blacklaws chaired a roundtable on International Women and the Law. For that purpose, the Law Society invited a group of female solicitors, practitioners and academics to share their thoughts and experiences in order to shape the future direction of this programme. This consultation group also had the mandate to discuss the transformational changes resulting from women occupying leadership roles.

Some of the questions explored were:

  1. What are the core areas, as identified by the group, in which women lawyers can contribute to increasing gender equality in the legal sector at the international level?
  2. What are the core obstacles and challenges for achieving gender equality in the legal profession?
  3. How can women members of the legal profession in England and Wales contribute to supporting other women lawyers internationally?
  4. How can the Law Society contribute directly to make that change happen?

All participants agreed that UK legal practitioners have a lot to offer in terms of generating thought leadership and in support of their fellow women lawyers internationally, who are facing similar challenges on matters relating to equal pay, access to justice, education and training, and career progression. Participants agreed that, to generate transformational changes, women should challenge existing structures that are not responsive to their aspirations and needs in society. Innovative ideas can be catalysts for those transformational changes that can benefit the legal sector making it more accessible for the next generation of female lawyers.

An intrinsic component of the programme will be to deliver it in partnership with others including members of the Law Society of England and Wales, academics and other key stakeholders, such as foreign Bar Associations and civil society.

The discussions also analysed challenges faced by women solicitors in the legal profession with the aim to find solutions and identify best practices that can be promoted abroad and vice versa. A full report will be published in early August 2017.. The first draft strategy for the International Women and the Law, which will outline the direction of programme, will be presented to participants for discussion at a second roundtable that will take place in November 2017.

For more information on the Women and the Law programme, please contact the Law Society’s International Programmes Manager, Lizzette Robleto de Howarth.