Women Who Will

Women Who Will 2021 report


In compiling this report, the teams at Obelisk Support and Next 100 Years invited nominations from senior General Counsel and other leaders in law, as well as including women recognised by the judges of the Next 100 Years Inspirational Women in Law Awards 2020 and doing our own research across published and social media.

Space only permits us to shout out 21 brilliant women in this report. We know there are many, many more Women Who Will in our profession, and we
hope this prompts greater recognition of all the talented women across the legal industry.


A letter from Dana Denis-Smith


After the glowing reception of our inaugural “Women Who Will” report in 2020, I am delighted to welcome you to this year’s edition. Building on six years of work by the First 100 Years and Next 100 Years campaign, this report celebrates the achievements and potential of women in law.

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For many of us, 2021 opened with another lockdown, with the varied pressures that brought for each of us. The added burden on our mental health and associated loss of well-being, particularly experienced by women in the profession, left many of us at risk of burnout and craving respite. As we recover from the demands the pandemic made of us, it is even sweeter to close this year by celebrating the talent, ingenuity and resilience of our Women Who Will and all the other gifted women in our industry.

I am also encouraged to see how the winds of change continue to blow as life settles to some kind of new normal again. This year has seen a number of significant women appointments at the top of the profession.

Congratulations to Deborah Finkler, first managing partner at Slaughter & May, Karen Davies, first woman global chair at Ashursts, Marie-Aimée de Dampierre, first solo woman chair at Hogan Lovells and to Aedamar Comiskey, Senior Partner at Linklaters, Carolena Gordon, Senior Partner at Clyde & Co and Rebecca Maslen-Stannage, Senior Partner at Herbert Smiths Freehills, the first women in these roles at their firms. This year also saw the appointment of the first woman Lady Chief Justice in 100 years for Northern Ireland, Dame Siobhan Keegan, and the Old Bailey criminal court in London achieved gender parity across its judges for the first time. Another significant milestone was reached in March this year, when I. Stephanie Boyce became the 177th Law Society President, the first person of colour and black woman to hold that office.

Yes, we are still far from seeing balanced representation across the judiciary, business leadership and professions. Yet still we move forward, step by step, towards a future-facing profession where men and women have true equality of both opportunity and outcome.

Dana Denis-Smith

CEO, Obelisk Support 

Diversity statistics for women and Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic people in different areas of the UK legal profession.

* Data collected from the Ministry of Justice Report: Diversity of the judiciary: Legal professions, new appointments and current post-holders, published July 2021
** In relation to the top 100 UK Law Firms. Research conducted by Next 100 Years, October 2021
*** Based on desk research, November 2021


Supreme Court:

  • 2/12 Justices are women * 16% 16%
  • 0/12 are BAME* 0% 0%


Court of Appeal & High Court:

  • Women * 29% 29%
  • BAME* 4% 4%

Law firms

# of Top 100 UK firms where the most senior leadership position are women and BAME

Managing Partner

  • Women 23% 23%
  • BAME 1% 1%

Senior Partner

  • Women 32% 32%
  • BAME 5% 5%


  • Women 15% 15%
  • BAME 0% 0%

In House

# of General Counsel at FTSE 100 Companies are:




% of Queen’s Counsel are*:

  • Women 18% 18%
  • BAME 10% 10%

“Whilst this appointment might be
seen as casting me into the role
of standard bearer, I am simply a practitioner following a career path.
I am confident, nevertheless, that I am the first of many to come.”

– Dame Linda Dobbs, DBE

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From the in-house community

Emma Lilley

SD Worx
Sole Legal Counsel (UK & I)

Amy McConnell

Head of Legal Operations

Christa Hotton

Senior Legal Counsel

Kate Lowe

Head of Legal, Bupa Global

Banke Odunaike

Head of Legal, EMEA

Rebecca Mills

Deputy General Counsel

Leeanne Whaley

Transformation Director, Legal and Co Sec, BT

“You do not have to be perfect. You really, really don’t. You’ve got what you’ve got: you’ve got the brain you’ve got; the background with which you were visited; you’ve got the looks that you are given. All you can do is capitalise on them.

– Dame Anne Rafferty DBE, PC
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From private practice and the Bar

Samina Iqbal

Goldsmith Chambers

Ana Paula Telleria


Maria Patsalos

Mishcon de Reya

Lucy Cole

Clifford Chance
Future Trainee Solicitor

Sue McLean

Baker Mackenzie

Emma Hughes

Mills and Partners Solicitors
Legal Assistant Paralegal

Kerry O’Connell

Slaughter & May

Kama Melly QC

Park Square Barristers

Tracey Dovaston

Boies Shiller Flexner LLP
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The legal change-makers

Yasmin Lambert

Managing Director

Elisabet Hardy

Thomson Reuters
VP Product Management

Penelope Warne

Senior Partner and Head of Energy

Anne Bodley

Founder Lex: Lead

Susan Cooper


Women & Leadership in the new normal

Opportunities & pitfalls post-pandemic

When we published our first “Women Who Will” report in November 2020 , the world was still waiting for the Covid -19 vaccine roll -out to start. Legal work in many countries was largely happening from people’s home offices, kitchens, even bedrooms. 12 months and further lockdowns later, the global vaccination campaign is underway and most countries in the world are finding their “new normal” for living with the virus.

Whilst it is too soon to say we are post – pandemic, the trends shaping our new world are emerging. Working from home and hybrid working, for so long held out against by legal traditionalists, are becoming normal practice. Technologies such as video conferencing and video hearings are established. Acceptance of digital documents, as opposed to paper, is growing stronger. In this new working world, where are the opportunities for women leaders in the legal industry? And what potential pitfalls do we need to watch out for?

Celebrating advances in women’s leadership

Notable advances in women’s leadership
in 2021

▪ Kamala Harris was inaugurated as the first woman Vice-President of the United States.
▪ Female premiers such as Angela Merkel (Germany), Jacinda Ardem (New Zealand) and Katrin Jakobsdottir (Iceland) led an approach to Covid-19 that led to substantially less deaths in their countries than similar countries led by men1 , prompting fresh debate about the unique qualities of women as leaders.
▪ Clyde & Co, Herbert Smith Freehills and Linklaters announced their first women senior partners, Aedamar Comiskey, Rebecca Maslen-Stannage and Carolena Gordon respectively, following the appointment of Georgia Dawson, first woman senior Partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in November 2020.
▪ Karen Davies became Ashurst’s first woman global chair in August 2021, a non-executive role tasked with setting strategic direction for the firm.
▪ Marie-Aimée de Dampierre was announced as the first solo woman chair at Hogan Lovells.
▪ Deborah Finkler was appointed first managing partner at Slaughter & May.
▪ Dame Siobhan Keegan, appointed first woman Lady Chief Justice in 100 years for Northern Ireland.
▪ I.Stephanie Boyce inaugurated as the 177th Law Society President, the first person of colour and black woman to hold that office.
▪ Monica Howard Douglas was appointed as Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Coca-Cola Company.

Why is diversity at the top

There is a well-established business case for diversity, which clearly demonstrates there are real commercial arguments as well as moral arguments for building more diversity at all levels of an organisation.

Researchers consistently find that increased innovation, a more stable approach to risk and greater profitability all correlate with increased diversity2 . As the world re-adjusts to life with C19, legal teams at firms and in-house alike face operating in an increasingly challenging environment. Restrictions to the global supply chain, increased geo-political instability, continued health threats, rising wages and the “great resignation” are all making it harder for leaders to deliver continued growth.

These shifting macro factors make it more important than ever to attract and nurture resilient and innovative leaders.

Greater diversity at the top also tends to encourage greater diversity across an organisation. For example, just months into her new role Georgia Dawson announced a range of new targets for race and gender at Freshfields3

Where are the opportunities
for women’s leadership in this
new world?

There are three emerging trends that, if capitalised on to the full, should make it easier for women to stay in their legal careers and develop their full legal potential. In response to the pandemic, the legal industry had to adopt remote working.
1. Now offices are open again, most large firms and in-house teams are offering some form of “hybrid” working. Losing the commute makes it easier to balance work and care, especially childcare, which still tends to disproportionately fall to women.

2. The pandemic has also seen a shift in recognition of the importance of mental health, and the lack of mental wellbeing in the profession. Research published recently in the Financial Times found that 90% of lawyers surveyed said that, if they were applying for a job now, there were firms that they would refuse to work for, regardless of remuneration, because they believe the culture would impact their wellbeing4 .

3. Finally, the pandemic has led to a shortage of legal talent and increasing competition for talented lawyers at all stages of their careers. In response, employers are increasingly offering a personalised employee experience, tailoring working practices and benefits to meet the needs of a more diverse workforce.

As well as work location and hours, firms have hit the headlines recently with a range of more innovative benefits, including egg freezing and fertility treatment , a wider variety of parental leave packages and support for parents impacted by pregnancy loss6 .

Alongside these new trends, we continue to see the rise of the status of the in-house legal community, where women have been able to build leadership careers at the highest levels in greater numbers than in the large law firms. And the types of legal career also continue to expand, with roles in legal operations, legal technology and legal design offering alternative opportunities to shine.

Ensuring the profession delivers
on this promise

Changing over 100 years’ of attitudes and culture takes more than 18 months (many of the firms announcing women senior partners this year launched women’s leadership programmes several years ago). We’ve described previously how entrenched conscious and unconscious biases can hold women back7 .

Whilst increased hybrid working for both men and women has the potential to alleviate some of the stresses that force working mothers to step back (or leave the profession altogether), senior leaders and policy makers need to be alert to the potential for it to create another type of “mummy track”, where those who spend more time working remotely are left out of opportunities to network, build their profile or work on the most exciting projects.

Women are still at a disadvantage when it comes to reward, with a pay gap between men and women of between 40 and 47% reported in the elite firms8 . This compares with a 13% gap across industry as a whole.

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Finally, firms cannot rely on their pipeline alone delivering women leaders in the short-term. Whilst the recent flurry of senior women appointments in the UK is heartening, we are still far from a 50/50 split when it comes to men and women in the most senior positions in the law in most countries around the world. To increase the pace of change, firms in particular need to be less afraid to look outside the partnership and bring in new leadership from outside.

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Investing in future legal
leaders earlier

Leadership and management as distinct skills need to be nurtured and invested in. Recent research by LawCare found that less than 50% of the professionals surveyed who had management or supervisory responsibilities had been given any kind of formal leadership or management training.

More investment in structured leadership development earlier in lawyers’ careers would help both men and women to progress, as well as creating opportunities to explore and redefine what good leadership looks like.

Covid-19 has led to a mass re-evaluation of the employer-employee relationship, work-life balance and our attitudes to risk and security. Against this backdrop, leaders who are in touch with their humanity, flexible in their thinking and able to collaborate are the most likely to succeed.

About the Next 100 Years

Founded by Dana Denis-Smith, CEO of Obelisk Support, who conceived the idea for the First 100 Years project back in 2014 when she stumbled upon a photograph from 1982. It showed City law firm, Herbert Smith (now Herbert Smith Freehills) celebrating its centenary. Front and centre of the photo was the firm’s first female partner, Dorothy Livingstone.

For Dana it was the start of a five-year journey to chart and celebrate the history of women in the law and to inspire future generations. Activities have included the commissioning of the first artwork for the Supreme Court to focus on women lawyers, the publication of “First” a book dedicated to the stories of the women legal pioneers and the creation of an archive of films capturing the stories of the first women to occupy different roles across the profession.

The Next 100 Years continues this work whilst looking to the future and how we can create an equal future for women in law. Obelisk Support is proud to be a founding sponsor of the Project and to have helped it grow and succeed over the last six years.

Find out more about the project at www.next100years.org.uk

Inspirational Women in Law Awards

Six years at a glance


Barrister of the Year

Rehana Azib – Winner
Morayo Fagborun Bennett
Charlotte Proudman
Christina Warner
Diana Wilson*

Solicitor of the Year

Phyllis Acheampong
Katharine Landells*
Samina Majid
Farah O’Brien
Leena Savjani – Winner

Champion of the Year

Vanessa Challess
Anthony Metzer QC
Amanda Millar*
Kenny Robertson
Lynette Wieland – Winner

Under-35 Lawyer of the Year

Faith Edmunds
Mary-Rachel McCabe*
Emma McIlveen
Chidi Onyeche – Winner
Sabrina Pervez

In-House Lawyer of the Year

Rosamund Browne
Vicky Harris*
Jenny Moore – Winner
Claire Porter-Bryant
Harpreet Sagoo

Paralegal of the Year

Toria Barnes
Rebecca Jiggens – Winner
Megan Ryan
Saadia Sharmin*
Marianna Vlas

Legal Academic of the Year

Sarah Hendry
Aoife Nolan
Shaid Parveen – Winner
Nicole Pierce*
Metka Potocnik

Mentor of the Year

Catherine Bamford
Laura Coates*
Amy Cox
Alexandra Gordon – Winner
Jade Williams-Adedeji

Lifetime Achievement Award

Dame Linda Dobbs DBE


Barrister of the Year

Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC
Anneli Howard
Kama Melly QC – Winner
Sheryl Nwosu
Sarah Pinder

Solicitor of the Year

Amanda Adeola
Vanessa Challess
Tracey Dovaston – Winner
Attia Hussain
Farzana Naz

Champion of the Year

Natasha Harrison
Samina Iqbal – Winner
Sabeena Pirooz
David Stone
Suzanne White

Under-35 Lawyer of the Year

Chloe Birch
Netanya Clixby
Anne Collins
Sangeetha Iengar
Karlia Lykourgou – Winner

In-House Lawyer of the Year

Shanika Amarasekara MBE
Clare Belcher
Anne Bodley, Lexlead – Winner
Amy Marren
Angharad Price

Lifetime Achievement Award

Cherie Blair QC


Barrister of the Year

Elaine Banton
Poonam Bhari
Kate Brunner QC
Professor Jo Delahunty QC
Rehana Popal – Winner
Professor Suzanne Rab

Solicitor of the Year

Hermione Allen
Danielle Ayres
Catherine Hart
Dr Laura Janes – Winner
Sarah Khan-Bashir MBE
Kelly Thomson

Champion of the Year

Dr Kim Barker
Alison Eddy – Winner
Jemima Lovatt
Sun-Hee Park
Rachel Pears
Eduardo Reyes

Under-35 Lawyer of the Year

Cynthia Jakes
Stephanie Kay
Coralie McKeivor
Coleen Mensa
Ingrid Munyaneza
Priscilla Osoba – Winner

In-House Lawyer of the Year

Penny Caven
Elaine Hutton
Catherine Palmer – Winner
Ruth Pearson
Prini Pithouse
Angharad Price

Lifetime Achievement Award

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC


Barrister of the Year

Kirsty Brimelow QC – Winner
Martha Cover
Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC
Angela Rafferty QC
Brie Stevens-Hoare QC

Solicitor of the Year

Katja Butler
Hilary Meredith – Winner
Brandusa Tataru-Marinescu
Belinda Lester
Natasha Harrison

Champion of the Year

Ray Berg
Nilema Bhakta-Jones – Winner
Dan Fitz
Charlotte Wannedeya
Mary-Ann Wright

Under-35 Lawyer of the Year

Frances Hull
Zeena Luchowa
Katherine McAssey
Annsley MerelleWard
Rachel Welch-Phillips – Winner

In-House Lawyer of the Year

Maaike de Bie
Ruth Murphy – Winner
Jolie Norris
Anna Suchopar

Lifetime Achievement Award

Baroness Hale


Anita Jewitt – Winner
Harriet Johnson
Suzanne Keenan
Suzanne Szczetnikowicz
Jenny Wilde


Keily Blair – Winner
Annie Flower
Gemma Pesce
Claire Sng
Georgina Wolfe


  1. Analysis of 194 countries and their Covid-19 experience by the Centre for Economic Policy Research and the World Economic Forum: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/18/female-led-countries-handledcoronavirus-better-study jacinda-ardernangela-merkel

    2. See research covered in the Obelisk Support “Women Who Will 2020” report

    3. Financial News “Freshfields Boss Georgia Dawson Sets Race and Gender Diversity Targets for Magic Circle Firm”: https://www.fnlondon.com/articles/freshfields-boss-georgia-dawson-sets-race-andgender-diversity-targets-for-magic-circlefirm-20210308

    4. Financial Times “High pay in law firms fails to compensate for toxic culture”: https://www.ft.com/content/b57dbe83-65c3-4ea7-95d1-1df878c763bd

    5. People in Law “Top law firms offer new fertility staff benefits”:

6. Kingsley Napley website “Kingsley Napley launches pregnancy loss policy”: https://www.kingsleynapley.co.uk/insights/news/kingsley-napley-launches-pregnancyloss-policy

7. Obelisk Support Women Who Will 2020

8. Financial Times “UK gender pay gap widens despite pressure on business to improve”: https://www.ft.com/content/239c95cc-d34f43e9-a61e-faa7954277b6?sharetype=blocked

9. LawCare Life in the Law Report:

Download the full report

This publication has been prepared for general guidance on matters of interest only, and does not constitute professional advice. It may be subject to change or update without notice. You should not act upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining specific professional advice. No representation, assurance or warranty (express or implied) is given as to the accuracy or completeness of the information or data contained in this publication, and, to the extent permitted by law, Obelisk Legal Support Solutions Limited, its members, employees and agents do not accept or assume any liability, responsibility or duty of care for any consequences of you or anyone else acting, or refraining to act in reliance on the information contained in this publication or for any decision based on it.


© Obelisk Legal Support Solutions Limited 2021

Company number: 07312074

Next 100 Years is a campaign of Spark 21 Registered charity number: 1167825

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