Gender differences could affect law firms’ bottom lines, survey finds

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A recent global survey of over 2,000 general counsel has found that male and female GCs approach buying legal services differently, and suggests that male-dominated law firms could experience difficulty in winning work from female in-house lawyers.

The survey by Acritas found that while men look for trustworthiness when buying legal services, women place greater emphasis on an understanding of business.  The survey proposes that male partners need to learn about the distinct way in which female legal services buyers operate.
Jane Hodder, partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, said that clients demand diversity of all kinds in their legal teams, not just in terms of gender.
“Our clients are increasingly interested in diverse teams and we’ve very much been responding to that,” she said.  “We need to think in a sensible way about our offering and therefore ensure that our staff mix caters for the needs of our external client base.”

Although the survey did receive starkly different responses from men and women, Hodder doesn’t believe that gender differences have a significant impact upon the ability of firms to win business. 

“Gone are the days where you can just blatantly send out a white Anglo-Saxon group of males to do a pitch,” she said.  “It’s not washing anymore, particularly as often on the client’s side they have a mixture of people from different racial backgrounds, different genders and so on.” 

While Hodder strongly believes that firms need to cater for clients by presenting diverse legal teams, she does not agree with the survey’s suggestion that there is a significant difference in client needs, based on the gender of the buyer.

“I have not, in my experience seen, and I think it’s fair to say in what the firm has seen, a propensity for male general counsel to be drawn to male, and female general counsel to be drawn to female. It really just depends on the individual,” she said.