Finding a good lawyer
Genevieve Hancock, Convenor, Wellington Women Lawyers’ Association
How does a client find a good lawyer? And in particular, how does a client find a good woman lawyer?
Equitable briefing and instruction are at the heart of what the Wellington Women Lawyers’ Association (WWLA) does. It’s so important because women lawyers do not experience equality in briefing and instruction (understatement of the century). While more than half of the lawyers who work in law firms with more than one practitioner are women, they make up only a third of partners or directors in those firms. More than 40% of barristers are women, yet they are greatly under-represented in appearances before the higher courts and make up only 23% of King's Counsel.
What struck me when I began looking at equitable briefing, was the lack of visibility of many women practitioners. Speaking from my own experience in assisting my clients to find lawyers in other practice areas, it can be very hard to identify women practitioners in particular areas even when you know they must be out there.
There are a number of ways in which clients identify a lawyer but increasingly online searches are key. Even if a client seeks a referral from someone they know, they will often use an online search to provide further information about the recommended lawyer(s).
So we came up with the idea of publishing a modern online directory of women lawyers. We engaged Richard Best, who has developed a number of online legal tools (https://stoplookgo.co.nz/ and https://contractfoundry.co.nz/). Richard believed in the project so much that he did most of the work in his own time. The “brief” (pun intended) was to focus on the user experience and produce a modern and engaging directory that would promote women lawyers and be a channel for instructions and appointments.
And voilà: meet https://womenlawyersdirectory.nz/, our wonderful new directory of women lawyers. It includes categories for sole practitioners, barristers, King’s Counsel, in-house counsel, lawyers at law firms, academics, and lawyers working in another field. It can be used to find a lawyer to appoint, brief or instruct or just to connect with colleagues. And best of all, it’s super appealing and easy to use.
The online form walks anyone loading a profile through the steps, making the process quick and straightforward. Users are in charge of their own information (which is great from a privacy perspective) and there are helpful tips given throughout.
Adding a profile to the directory has a range of benefits. Allowing people to find you when using the directory is an obvious one. But because you can add links to your own website and LinkedIn profiles, listing on the directory also increases website traffic to your own website and enhances search engine optimization (SEO), helping your rankings in online searches.
Most importantly, people looking for a lawyer can filter by type of lawyer and/or practice area so they can instantly see the lawyers that meet their criteria.
Feedback from in-house counsel is already hugely positive:
“This is an excellent resource for finding experienced women lawyers and profiling their skills." (Jeremy Valentine, General Counsel and Chief Risk Officer, Chubb Insurance New Zealand)
“This is a superb resource for anyone wanting to instruct a lawyer.” (Jason Woolley, General Counsel and Company Secretary, Meridian Energy)
“This is a great initiative to boost the visibility and accessibility of women lawyers and their fantastic skills and expertise” (Larissa Vaughan, GM Regulatory Affairs and General Counsel, TSB Bank)
Any woman member of WWLA can upload a profile to the directory. We invite all members of the New Zealand Bar Association - Ngā Ahorangi Motuhake o te Ture to join WWLA and put your profile up on the directory. We have a range of membership options and joining is easy: https://www.wwla.org.nz/membership/. New members are given the key to the directory.
We are also planning a series of networking events in addition to the directory, focussing on introducing women barristers and those in small firms to potential new corporate clients.
The content of this article has been provided by Wellington Women Lawyers Association. Please direct any questions to the Convenor of WWLA.