A global legal giant outlines why its blockbuster New Zealand combination makes sense from a diversity and inclusion perspective
At the start of a new decade, the relevance of International Women’s Day and its importance to the legal profession both in New Zealand and across the globe, is perhaps now greater than ever.
This year, one New Zealand firm that is leading the way in gender diversity has combined with the world’s largest law firm to become Dentons Kensington Swan.
An alignment of cultures
There were many reasons why the combination made sense to the Dentons Kensington Swan partnership. The main benefit of having access to legal talent across the globe made the combination a no-brainer because of the benefits it provided the New Zealand firm’s clients.
However, one of the main reasons the decision to combine was easy to make was the alignment of cultures between the firms, and their shared belief in the need for greater inclusion and diversity across the legal profession.
Gender diversity by the numbers
Dentons is not only the world’s largest law firm, it also has the highest number of female lawyers of any international law firm and in 2019, 48% of newly elected partners were female.
In New Zealand, Dentons Kensington Swan has 33 partners, of which 13 are women, making up a 39% female partnership. The local firm’s leadership has a strong female representation; Hayley Miller and Catriona Grover both sit on the firm’s board. Indeed, the firm’s partnership deed requires that each gender is represented by at least two members of the board.
Charlotte Henley is the Wellington managing partner, Megan Bates the chief financial officer and Emma Gibbins is the firm’s people director, meaning that 43% of the senior management team is female.
A global culture that actively promotes diversity
Last year, Dentons Kensington Swan was recognised as a finalist in Diversity Awards NZ for its commitment to creating the policies and culture to allow talented female lawyers to achieve their full potential. These policies help remove barriers that existed in the traditional law-firm environment.
The firm is also active in the local business community and is one of the foundation sponsors of the Women’s Infrastructure Network (WIN). WIN was launched in 2016 with the purpose of increasing the number of women in leadership roles, growing the visibility of women, and providing a networking and support group for women in the infrastructure sector.
On a global scale, Dentons has developed Women LEAD (Leadership, Entrepreneurism, Advancement, Development), which plays a critical role in supporting and building the success of women across the firm. The Women LEAD group delivers several key initiatives, including the New Mother Outreach Program.
The firm also has two roles dedicated to promoting women at the firm and helping them to enhance their business development and marketing skills. Amanda Jones, partner, global women's advancement, is responsible for increasing the number of women in partnership and senior leadership positions within the firm on a regional and global basis. Kate Broer, partner, Dentons global client development, works to promote, enhance and support the full participation of women in client relationships and business development activities across the firm.
Building the law firm of the future now
Dentons Kensington Swan, through its initiatives and commitment to disrupting the status quo, is creating a law firm on a global scale that is removing the barriers to women achieving their full potential. On International Women’s Day that vision is one that is to be commended and truly is the vision of the law firm of the future that we all want to see and benefit from.
Contributed by Dentons Kensington Swan