Catherine Henry Lawyers has been recognised for its commitment to, and achievements in, fostering diversity in the workplace.
The firm has been named a finalist in the 2018 Hunter Diversity Awards in the Diversity Champion – Organisation category.
Principal, Catherine Henry, says her firm takes a “we will make it work” approach to the barriers to gender equity such as flexible working arrangements, work opportunities for young women as well as professional development opportunities. Catherine says the firm supports initiatives and policies to foster gender diversity within the legal profession and the broader community.
The firm employs more women than men; 29 of its 32 staff are women. All executive positions are currently filled by women and five of the six senior lawyers are female. By contrast, and although women are now entering the legal profession in slightly greater numbers than men, women lawyers occupy only 18% of decision making roles in legal firms.
Catherine says that, unlike many other law firms who openly state their opposition to employing part-time staff, her firm is supportive of part time work. A total of 15 staff (including one male) are part time due to university commitments, family reasons or lifestyle choice. Staff are able to work from home on a formal and informal basis.
“There is no old-fashioned headcount of staff at 8.30 am and 5.30 pm at our firm,” Catherine says.
“Providing all professional staff with remote access means if it is easier to leave the office and do some work in the evening or early morning then this can be done from home,” she says.
The firm takes an active role in encouraging more women and diversity within the legal profession. It is the only Newcastle firm that supports an equitable briefing policy when selecting barristers for cases. Equitable briefing policies require lawyers to always consider the appointment of a female barrister where possible to represent a client. This affirmative action policy helps address the issue of low numbers of women practicing at the bar.
Catherine Henry Lawyers provides work placements for local law students, particularly female students. A number of students have become paralegals and gone on to solicitor roles. It also supports the University of Newcastle’s Empower program which connects female university students to business and law industry professionals. Two of the firm’s female lawyers have been involved in the program. Catherine has established a local chapter of the Women Lawyers Association in Newcastle and is its current Convenor..
“Ensuring women have the same professional development opportunities as men, particularly those women who may have had time away from their careers caring for young children, plays an important role in fostering gender equity.”
In their fourth year, the Awards are an initiative of the Equal Futures Project Committee. The winners will be announced at a Newcastle Business Club function on July 10. Tickets are available here
Chair of The Equal Futures Project and CEO of Hunter Coal Chain Coordinator, Kirsten Molloy, says the Diversity Awards aim to recognise and celebrate those who have discovered what works in making their organisation and/or community a fairer, more equitable and more successful place to live and work.
The Awards criteria encourage new ways of thinking about incorporating diversity into business, not just changing policy but changing company culture and being a role model for diversity.
Congratulations to all the finalists.