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From the Law Society

10 October 2014

Women in law highlight

We are rapidly approaching what promises to be a highlight of the New Zealand Law Society’s 2014 women in the law initiative. It is the upcoming conference – Women, the Law and the Corner Office – organised by NZLS CLE Ltd.

The conference will take place in Auckland on 29 October and in Wellington on 31 October. Lawyers from throughout New Zealand will be able to take part without needing to travel, too, as NZLS CLE is live-streaming this conference via the internet.

This is the first major conference that NZLS CLE has run on women in the law. I cannot commend this conference highly enough, whether you are a female or a male lawyer. We are very fortunate and honoured that Justice Susan Glazebrook is chairing this conference.

Justice Glazebrook will be well known to most, if not all of us, for a series of groundbreaking speeches on women in the law. This includes her speech It is just a matter of time and other myths – the gender gap. If you have not yet heard or read this speech, I would highly recommend it. It is available at

Justice Glazebrook’s elevation to the Supreme Court in August 2012 was a recent landmark in her stellar career. After completing a doctorate in French legal history at Oxford University, she worked for Simpson Grierson, specialising in tax and finance law.

She became a partner of the firm before her appointment to the High Court in June 2000, where she served as a temporary judge until her permanent appointment in December 2000. In May 2002, Justice Glazebrook was appointed to the Court of Appeal. As she says in her introduction on the conference brochure, the conference aims to analyse why it might be that the “corner office” remains elusive for women, despite the fact that over 40% of lawyers entering the profession since 1990 have been women.

We are also very fortunate to have an outstanding keynote speaker in Mary Cranston. Ms Cranston is travelling from the United States to be involved in the conference. One dimension of her career has been as a mover and a pioneer in the advancement of women in the workplace. This involvement came alongside and was enhanced by a series of “firsts” Ms Cranston achieved in her practice as a lawyer. Three major “firsts” she achieved are:

  • first woman to be elected chief executive of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP;
  • first person to hold the senior partner position at the firm; and
  • first woman to lead a global 100 law firm.

Beyond those important landmarks, Ms Cranston was also a pioneer female antitrust litigator. Under her leadership, Pillsbury grew from a leading California law firm to one of the largest firms in the world, with over 800 lawyers and 16 offices worldwide. Her involvement as a pioneer of gender diversity in the workplace has included working on both the American Bar Association’s and the New York State Bar’s commissions on women.

Among the panel discussions and other presentations, I would like to highlight three more.

Well known former political journalist, now lawyer, Linda Clark, will look at the growing evidence that competent women are less confident than men. “Why is that?” she will ask. “And is this lack of confidence holding women back from being more successful?”

Law Society President Chris Moore will look at the topic of male champions of change. “The 21st Century,” he says, “needs a new group of male leaders prepared to recognise and champion the benefits of true equality for their women employees. Some private sector companies have moved in this direction. Can their experiences be applied advantageously to the legal profession?”

Well known former Telecom CEO Theresa Gattung’s presentation is entitled The Brave and the Bold. This session will examine how legal experience can open up choices if you are prepared to step out of your comfort zone.

This conference is certain to provide a wealth of very useful learnings which we can all use to enhance both our individual and our firm’s practices, learnings that will be valuable for women and men alike.


Last updated on the 17th March 2016