Pronouned Understanding

In a Q and A with LPM magazine, Marie-Claire Byrne, head of business development at Davis Woolfe, talks about using pronouns in email signatures and fostering a diverse and supportive culture.

Q. What prompted including pronouns in email signatures?

A My managing partner, Guy Davis, and I met Rachel Reese from Global Butterflies after being introduced by Interlaw founder Daniel Winterfeldt. Not only did she inspire us to make changes, however big or small, but she also showed us that we’re in a great position to be allies. It makes absolutely no difference to us but can make all the difference to someone else. It’s that simple.

Q. What messaging will you use to roll it out?

A. We’re relaunching the firm in a few months: new website, branding and mission. Unfortunately, recruitment has stalled in the meantime, but we’ll be insisting that new starters all have their pronouns on their signature, but not without explaining why – we’re

planning on getting Rachel to do a talk for the team. She started Global Butterflies to bring awareness of trans and non-binary issues to the business sector – and it’s something we would like to champion.

Q. Why is it important for the firm to show support in this way?

A. We want to lead not follow – we’re happy to show our alliance in this small gesture. Something that we may not  think twice about may mean a whole lot more to someone we’re communicating with, whether we realise it or not.

Q. What has been the reaction from external people?

A. Not many people have noticed so far, but the ones who have have been really positive. It makes you remember that something so simple speaks volumes! We did this of our own accord as something we wanted our firm to support, when someone from our branding agency found out, they thought it was a great idea: “By the way Marie-Claire, I’ve just notice that you have your preferred pronouns in your signature – what a brilliant, simple and considerate thing to do, it’s so on brand.”

Q. What does the firm do around diversity and inclusion already?

A. I think the fact that we’re an SME firm puts us in a great position to expand in the ‘correct’ way. We really put an emphasis on championing women (we’re 80/20 women to men) and look to continue to employ from a socially mobile and diverse spectrum. Guy Davis hired me on merit, for example. I didn’t know the first thing about the legal sector! I decided to leave hospitality as I had been doing it for 20 years and needed a new challenge; I’m glad I made the move. Guy told me I could learn on the job – so the role adapted naturally as well as my own skillset. I was going to join the firm as a paralegal, but we quickly realised that different things needed addressing within the business and so now I’m head of business development. And I couldn’t be happier. Hiring people from different backgrounds really does work to the firm’s advantage – I have a totally different view on things as opposed to a solicitor, which is beneficial to growing the firm and our strategy. In terms of policies and targets, we’re signatories of the Law Society’s women in law pledge and its diversity and inclusion initiative. And we’re really gung ho about hiring diversely – it’s an absolute must and a no-brainer for us. We’re hoping to grow three-fold in the next four years and want to reflect the cosmopolitan world in the face of our firm.

Q. How does this play into the firm and its culture?

A. Guy Davis started Davis Woolfe in June 2019. The team (then seven) left their previous firm as Guy recognised that they could provide a better service to clients in a more rewarding atmosphere if the focus of the business was solely on litigation. The firm now operates with three partners, four fee earners, and two people focusing on operations. Diversity is really important to the firm, and Guy has made sure that acceptance and support really lives within the firm. We recognise that divergent opinions contribute to social dynamism, and sharing insights leads to successful collaboration. Being in the legal, financial and tech centre of the UK, we recognise that innovation is not just about creativity, but also about interconnections and cross-fertilisation between trusted partners. We encourage our staff to develop their own strengths, as legal cases are not standardised static sculptures, they are unique adjustable designs that require a range of skills to solve. We’re passionate about building a culture that celebrates, respects and values differences and want to create an inclusive workplace atmosphere from the ground up.

If you would like to discuss anything relating to this article, please contact Marie-Claire Byrne at [email protected]