This is the first year the programme was introduced. It may be a little contribution from those of us participating (both law firms and tech vendors), but the little difference we make could potentially have a huge impact in the way these girls view technology as a career. July-August is always the busiest work placement period for most of us, but I am glad to have had the chance to take part.
I wanted to be involved as I have looked after an all-male IT team for nearly three years before managing to recruit a female member late in 2017. Saying that, I am proud of the fact that our small team has always been hugely diverse in its own way – multi-racial backgrounds, different faiths, and social status, disability and educational backgrounds. Although achieving gender equality will always be a challenge in technology, work to increase diversity in legal technology is hugely important and diversity and inclusion goes beyond gender; it shouldn’t be limited to race, disability or other “protected characteristics” either.
Social mobility is equally important. For example, being able to give young people who are unable to go to university the opportunity through apprenticeship schemes or other means to improve their skills, earn, learn and gain a qualification at the same time, and then seeing them succeed in a very competitive environment is quite fulfilling. It isn’t always smooth sailing and it is always the journey and guidance one provides them that counts. For those who undertake such schemes, we know it is not all about academic or intellectual intelligence, but having the commitment and emotional intelligence from both sides that will make the journey a good one.
Before spending time with us, the girls under the Deltas programme have come from a couple of days learning and experiencing what legal tech vendors do and the services and products they provide the legal sector with. In our environment, they gained a bit of exposure to how such technology is used in law firms.
This is Khadija (sitted in front) in our training room with a new starter, being shown how legal contracts need to be formatted accordingly using the right tools.
Working in London bridge means we have daily access to tourist attractions, so Khadija and I went for a quick stroll along the river after lunch whilst sharing stories about anything under the sun – food, personal career stories, etc. It wasn’t all tech-talk.
This is me and Cindy. She spent her initial days helping out with our asset register and was incredibly focused.
I managed to spend some time with both girls showing them how technology has enabled our lawyers to collaborate more efficiently with their clients in various ways through innovative client-focused portals developed in-house. Our trainer showed them the various technology applications that lawyers and legal staff use that are provided by external vendors.
I am hoping some of these examples reflected the importance of technology in law firms, and that tech in the business world is much more than what they are currently exposed to – i.e. social media, gadgets, phone apps and so on.
Attracting and retaining people of wide-ranging backgrounds matters in a world where data science models and machine learning/AI is on the rise particularly in legal. Humans write and maintain algorithms; accuracy and fairness by design can only be achieved with teams of diverse ideas and experiences to avoid flawed systems that perpetuate any sort of biases.
Thank you very much to Lexis Nexis and iManage who have participated in the Deltas programme, we cannot do this on our own. The same goes to the other law firms – MW Solicitors, Bird & Bird and DAC Beachcroft who have inspired these girls with varying law firm experiences.
If we can be that little link in the chain for some of these youngsters’ success in the future, whatever career path they choose to pursue, then let us continue to do this.
C Aguila, Head of IT, Partner, WS
Christel heads up Winckworth Sherwood’s IT department and has overall responsibility for IT Strategy, IT Business Continuity, Information and Data Security, and delivery of technological and transformation projects to the business.
Christel joined WS as a developer 20 years ago and has been instrumental in developing and implementing client-focused online instruction and management information portals over the years. Her current initiatives are focused on building a continuous business improvement culture that delivers efficiencies for the firm and its clients through technology, processes, continuous learning and cultural change.
Christel was made a partner in 2011 and has completed an MBA (Technology Strategy and Management) in 2013. With her growing interest in the use of AI and automation in the legal sector, she also completed an MIT course on AI and its implications for Business Strategy and is now exploring a few projects with her team.