Some 40 leading law firms have so far signed up to an e-mentoring programme that aims to help female lawyers gain the business development skills they need to become rainmakers.
Networking Nuance aims to propel women to the top table by recognising that “the more work you bring in, the more power and options are accessible to you”.
It is the brainchild of Tamlyn Edmonds and Kate McMahon, two of the founding partners of City firm Edmonds Marshall McMahon, since 2012 the first and still only specialist private prosecution law firm in the UK.
It offers a nine-week course, which must be completed in 12 weeks, featuring pre-recorded video interviews of 12 expert female networkers in law.
They include Natasha Harrison, founder and managing partner of Pallas Partners, Sara Teasdale, managing partner of PCB Byrne, Cleary Gottleib partner Nallini Puri and Akima Paul Lambert, a partner at Hogan Lovells.
There are two from outside private practice – Ayse Yazir, global head of origination at litigation funder Bench Walk Advisors, and leading executive coach Jenny Rogers.
They are shortly to be joined by the first male lawyer – Mike Francies, managing partner of the London office of US firm Weil.
The course costs £495 and also includes a networking forum, guest speakers and in-person events.
Ms McMahon and Ms Edmonds set up their firm after careers in the public sector, coming from the Serious Fraud Office and Department of Health, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency respectively (Andrew Marshall was a barrister in private practice).
As a result, Ms McMahon told Legal Futures, they had no clients to bring with them nor networking skills to attract any. They bought books and taught themselves to network “by dedicated practice and study”, and started to mentor staff on work generation.
“We then started to get called by male partners around the City who would say they had great these female lawyers who didn’t want to network,” she said.
This gave them the idea for Networking Nuance. Ms Edmonds said they asked the experts the questions they were frequently asked – such as how to network both internally and externally, dealing with the fear of public speaking, retaining authenticity, cold calling and “fear of working a room”.
Despite the pre-recorded format, she said the feedback was that “it feels like a one-on-one and provides access to women that people wouldn’t usually have access to. It feels like a mentoring programme”.
Ms McMahon stressed that women “need to think about the importance of bringing in work early on in their careers” – and certainly earlier than it usually happens now.
This is why the price was set at an accessible level – or what she described as the equivalent of just one week of executive coaching.
Ms Edmonds said she believed that law firms were genuinely committed to helping their female lawyers gain these skills and generate work, with some trying to create internal programmes; a couple have asked to integrate Networking Nuance into them.
“I think this is a project that needs to be seized by men and male managing partners,” Ms McMahon added. “Men see this as a firm issue, not a male issue. Men just need to take control of it to some extent because you get great results from a more mixed leadership team.”
Mr Francies was an example of one who was committed to the idea, which is why he has been added to the list of experts. “He reached out to ask how he could get involved. When you see that sort of leadership, that’s incredibly impressive,” said Ms McMahon.
The pair are looking to expand Networking Nuance internationally and are launching a leadership programme too, and hope to roll it out to other industries as well. They have also just had the first male lawyer sign up to the programme.
They have also written a blog that we publish today to mark International Women’s Day.
Separately, US/UK law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner has launched BCLP Podium, which it described as a “first-of-its-kind leadership communications programme in the legal industry”.
Over 12 weeks starting today, International Women’s Day, it pairs BCLP lawyers with clients around the globe in small groups “to master the most impactful aspects of communications”.
Developed and delivered in partnership with communications agency Ginger, the training and coaching modules “focus on harnessing the power of storytelling and thought leadership for lawyers in global organisations”.
The inaugural participants include 12 female partners from BCLP and 12 female lawyers from BT, Credit Agricole Corporate & Investment Bank, Emerson and National Grid, among others.
The programme will culminate with a final showcase presentation in May where participants will use the skills they have learned over seven different modules to each deliver their “powerful piece of game-changing thought leadership to a live audience”.
BCLP co-chair Lisa Mayhew said: “We were determined to do something different this year – action and concrete intervention. Not just supportive words.
“Making concrete investments in the next generation of female leaders is paramount to our profession, and we’re proud to be partnering with our clients around the globe on this important journey.”