Law Society president calls for more diversity in profession

Michelle Ní Longáin stresses importance of increasing access to leadership for women

A majority of solicitors in Ireland are women but men continue to dominate the higher ranks of the profession, the president of the Law Society has said.

Marking International Women’s Day, which is Tuesday, with a call for more diversity in the profession, Michelle Ní­ Longáin said this would help to “break the bias” and increase access to justice for all.

She said men continue to dominate the higher ranks in the sector and that no solicitor was among the last 20 judges appointed to the superior courts.

“Recognising challenges that need our focus and action does not lessen the progress made to advance gender equality, diversity and inclusion in the solicitors’ profession,” she said.


“Now we must look forward with renewed purpose to increase access to leadership for women and those with diverse backgrounds.”

Ms Ní­ Longáin, who is the 151st president of the society but just the fifth woman to hold the position, said she was proud to lead “at a time of transformative change towards a more diverse future”.

She said trainee solicitors are at the centre of this change “and represent the future of the profession and the future legal leaders of Ireland”.

“Demographics including age, location of practice and nationality represented among trainees are also changing, which signals progress towards the diversity we want to see in the profession.”

She said actions taken by the society, including the Women in Leadership mentoring programme, are helping in realising this.

Tarisai May Chidawanyika, who moved to Dublin from Zimbabwe 14 years ago and qualified as a solicitor in 2020, now works with the Matheson firm.

Disadvantaged backgrounds

“We need to amplify and listen to the voices of those who are marginalised,” she said.

“How much more real would access to justice in Irish society be when the person who is about to pave the trajectory of your life understands your background, your personal circumstances and what has led you to be in the situation you now face? Let’s encourage and educate students from disadvantaged backgrounds, from primary school all the way through to third level, and show them that the legal profession is achievable for them too.”

Alysha Hoare from Cork, the first in her family to pursue a legal career, said she knew from the age of 12 that she wanted to pursue a career in law. She studied law and political science at Trinity College and was involved in the European Youth Parliament before qualifying as a solicitor.

She is now a trainee solicitor at McCann FitzGerald in Dublin and said most of her trainee group are women and that the firm has 24 female partners.

“I see great role models here, it is a very exciting time.”

Gráinne Cuddihy worked as a legal secretary before starting her family. When her four children were teenagers, she studied for a law degree at night at University College Cork while also working full-time. She qualified as a solicitor in 2020 and said “it was the best thing I did”.

Ms Cuddihy is currently practising at James J O’Donoghue & Co in Tower, Co Cork, and, as a Law Society ambassador, acts as a mentor for aspiring solicitors.

“I’ve had emails from mature students and I tell them, if I can do it, so can you.”

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times