Q&A with I. Stephanie Boyce
I. Stephanie Boyce is the 177th person, the sixth female, the first Black office holder, the first person of colour and the second in-house solicitor in almost fifty years to become president of the Law Society of England and Wales.
How many years have you been a Council member (and which constituency)?
I have been a Council member since 2013 representing the Women Lawyers Division.
What other roles have you held at the Law Society?
During my time with the Law Society, I have been deputy vice president, vice president, president, and Council member representing the Women Lawyers Division.
I am a member of the Board and the now former chair of the Strategic Litigation Group.
I am a former member of the Scrutiny, Performance and Review Committee; a former member of the Regulatory Board; the former chair of the Conduct Committee; and a former member of the Council Member’s Committee.
Why did you want to be the Law Society’s president?
I wanted to be the change that I wanted to see.
After four attempts, I was successfully elected as deputy vice president, becoming the 177th, the first Black office holder and the first person of colour president in the society’s history. A historical achievement.
What are you most looking forward to during your presidential year?
After almost a year and a half of working from home due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, I am looking forward to getting back into the office and to getting out and about and meeting members, especially to officiating at the admissions ceremony, welcoming newly admitted solicitors to the profession as they embark upon the start of their career.
As president of the Law Society, what has been your most memorable moment so far?
The most memorable moment of my presidency thus far was returning to Chancery Lane after a year’s absence due to COVID-19 restrictions and delivering my presidential address from the common room.
It was very emotional being back in the building after all this time and to do so as president.
What are your top three tips for aspiring solicitors today?
To never ever give up, that every door is open if you PUSH: persevere until something happens.
Self-belief is key. So too is resilience and determination. Let not your setbacks be the end of your story but rather an opportunity to try again.
There is a saying that ships don’t sink because of the water around them, ships sink because of the water that gets in them.
What needs to happen to diversify senior leadership roles in the City?
It is clear that the business case for diversity is stronger than ever before, especially in the COVID-19 world we find ourselves in.
Research shows the more diverse businesses are, the more profitable and better positioned to be more resilient, adaptive and innovative to meet the new challenges we are all facing.
But not just that, improving the diversity and inclusiveness of the legal profession is both a moral and a business imperative.
Law can offer really rewarding and fulfilling careers to people from any background.
Diversity in the profession has improved in recent years, and statistics on current cohort of law students show potentially even greater diversity in the future.
However, there are still barriers that make it harder for some to get in and get on.
The Law Society is trying to do what we can to help, and creating a more modern, diverse and inclusive profession is a priority for us.
We must acknowledge and value the contribution that diversity brings, bringing with it lived experiences, knowledge, and understanding of an individual's background and how that links with career progression.
Late last year, the Law Society launched its race for inclusion report: research that looked at the experiences of Black, Asian and minority ethnic solicitors.
The report sought to discover the barriers Black, Asian and minority ethnic solicitors experience at every stage of their career and provide advice for firms, businesses and organisations on how to build a more inclusive workplace. If you haven’t looked at it, I urge you to.
What is clear is that there is a clear disparity in representation across different firm types, so whilst this research focused on the experiences of Black, Asian and minority ethnic solicitors, it is clear that disparities exist across the spectrum of diversity such as gender, disability, sexuality and socio-economic background.
To coordinate and drive action that results in the improvement of diversity and inclusion – not just at senior levels, but at all levels – we need to examine and eradicate disparities in advancement, leadership roles, hiring, attrition, compensation, employee satisfaction, sponsorship and other aspects of organisational culture.
We must all be committed to making a positive, practical, meaningful and lasting contribution to diversity and inclusion.
Share some great advice you’ve been given
As a newly qualified solicitor, I was told by a fellow solicitor to network, network, network. I am in no doubt that I would not have got to where I am today without networking.
Networking helps you build connections and develop relationships. It’s important for a career in law, where it can lead to new business for your firm, business or organisation, or give you new opportunities.
The Law Society has produced a guide on networking.
In rare moments of calm, how do you relax?
I take time to smell the roses.