Becky Hosken, HR Manager at Coodes Solicitors, explains why Coodes is celebrating the First Hundred Years project and says the firm is committed to creating opportunities for everyone.
This year marks the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, which paved the way for women to become lawyers. The First Hundred Years project celebrates the anniversary and the important contribution women have made to the legal profession over the last century.
This is an important anniversary, which we are celebrating at Coodes Solicitors by showcasing some of the brilliant female lawyers within the firm.
Looking around the firm today, it is hard to believe that just a century ago women were starting to enter the profession for the first time.
As HR Manager, I am really proud of the culture we have developed here at Coodes, which is one of inclusivity and opportunity for all.
This hasn’t happened by accident. We have worked hard to remove barriers and create opportunities. This approach is creating a number of benefits, including an excellent retention rate, with many people developing careers at Coodes that span decades, and a high quality service to clients who have an experienced and committed team of lawyers on their side.
Here are some of the key steps we are taking to ensure we offer everyone the very best opportunities at Coodes.
Coodes has more female than male lawyers and this is now reflected across our management team. Most of our departments now have female heads as a result of us opening up management opportunities to everyone rather than just equity partners. This, in turn, has inspired other women in the firm to seek promotions.
One of the most common times for many women to leave the legal progression is after maternity leave. Here at Coodes, we have an excellent return to work rate, which we believe is the result of our positive approach to flexible working.
One area which I would like to focus on is developing policies around supporting staff who are going through the menopause. This is a time of life when women are often at the top of their game, but can get held back for health reasons. The CIPD has some fantastic guidance on this issue, which my team and I are currently reviewing to see what we can do to improve current policy and practice.
A third of Coodes staff, including many of our partners and senior managers, work part-time. A number of them have adjusted their hours to care for children, while some have other demands outside work, such as caring for elderly parents. And of course it is not just women who request flexibility to fit their work around other responsibilities and we are seeing more of our staff requesting different working patterns.
Because part-time, flexible working is so common it has become normalised at Coodes. We work hard to ensure meetings are arranged to accommodate different people’s working patterns and have created a culture where requesting flexible working is not seen as a sign of a lack of ambition.
For some staff, just being able to work from home or from different offices can help them balance their work and personal lives. As a forward-thinking firm, we embrace new technologies that allow people to work remotely. We are supported by an amazing ICT team who go above and beyond to ensure that we are not only using cutting-edge technology, both hardware and software, but that it also suits each individual. There is no ‘one size fits all’ at Coodes.
Many of our staff who have joined us as trainees, or in administrative roles, are now qualified solicitors or chartered legal executives. When we spot potential, we nurture it.
The legal sector is changing and is offering new ways to develop a career. While many of our lawyers have taken the traditional route of completing a Law degree at university before qualifying as a solicitor, growing numbers are coming to us as school leavers or looking for a career change. Many are also qualifying as Chartered Legal Executives, rather than solicitors.
This shift is something we welcome as it means we can attract and retain people, who can now choose the best way to develop a career in law.
I am really proud of the culture we have at Coodes, which reflects our values of enterprise and team work, as well as legal excellence. There is a culture of openness, of offering people opportunities and embracing different ways of working, which has enabled people to take on new responsibilities and progress through their careers. Having a more diverse workforce also ultimately results in a better service for our clients, who benefit from having access to people with a range of skills and life experience.
Becky Hosken is HR Manager at Coodes Solicitors. Find out more about careers with Coodes Solicitors.