‘It would be pretty crude if a law firm said you are technically male, so we’ll just tick that. You can use the appropriate gender title (such as "Sir" or "Madam") if you know the gender of the person but not their name. Global Butterflies advises law firms on use of titles by receptionists and other staff, recommending an end to gendered forms of address such as ‘sir’ and ‘madam’. That doesn't mean it's anything other than a stupidly bad idea to do so in modern writing. ‘The lord chancellor cannot change their own designation under the 2003 act mentioned above,’ says Small. When writing to a company, say for example, XYZ Insurance Co., how do you write salutation in a gender neutral way? Therefore, "sir" should not be used in all cases.If you know the editor is male, then by all means, use "sir". We have to think about the language we use as it reveals the assumptions and decisions being made. But are there titles that cannot be changed? Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer said it has stopped using the phrase from this weekend. Technically "he" can be used in a gender-neutral sense and it historically has been. The Courts Act 2003 changed the title to be either ‘lord justice’ or ‘lady justice’. ‘You’ve got people looking at someone and saying “hello sir”. Freshfields’ joint managing partner Chris Pugh said: “It’s a relatively small change, but it’s a significant point and you notice that when everyone immediately accepts that the change needs to happen.”“I hope it will shed light on other things that we might inadvertently be doing that risk alienating people we communicate with - not only people at Freshfields but clients and other professionals as well.”, Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, the UK’s largest charity for women’s rights, said the change was long overdue. Poor grammar is one of the primary reasons that cover letters are rejected. 'Dear Sir or Madam' is an outdated salutation traditionally used to open formal business emails. It brings you quick, access to the library catalogue and value added legal information sources. For example, Clause 11.2 of the NEC3 Engineering and Construction Contract reads: (2) Completion is when the Contractor has, • done all the work which the Works Information states he is to do by the Completion Date…. In the UK the firm will now address all communications to “Dear Sir or Madam”, while in the US all correspondence will start with “Dear Ladies and Gentlemen”. Get jobs by email. To be as inclusive as possibl… Apparently managing partner Chris Pugh said: Inadvertently? And parliament could very easily change the lord chancellor’s title to remove a gender-specific term, just as it did for lords justices of appeal.’. However, this greeting is not gender-neutral and was mostly used when men dominated management positions. Not to mention the fact Freshfields staff are not all signed up to the new ways, if documents filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission in the last two years are anything to go by (17 December 2017 and 9 March 2018). Reader M has a question about gender-neutral names… I am a new practicing attorney with a gender-neutral name. If his reply is not acceptance, the Project Manager states his reasons…, 13.4 The Project Manager replies to a communication submitted or resubmitted by the Contractor for acceptance. If they are an individual then it depends on their gender and title. Suggestions for a more gender neutral approach include: Dear Mr/Ms Surname; Dear Colleague; Dear Position i.e. ‘This is a throwback, presumably, to when people in business entering contracts were all males. Arguing that ‘he’ and ‘she’ should be used interchangeably rather than replaced, he added: ‘Statutes and statutory instruments ought not only to be clear and free of ambiguity, but surely ought also to stand as models for the correct use of the English language… to prostitute the English language in pursuit of some goal of gender equality is, I suggest, unacceptable.’. If it’s an organisation, then we currently use ‘Dear Sirs’ as that remains the accepted standard. Marialuisa Taddia reports. A spokesman said: “It very much depends on who we’re writing to. It found 81 law firms and banks exclusively used “Dear Sirs” on letters and communications during the process. This article is more than 4 years old. As lawyers and their clients get to grips with this fast-changing world they may start longing for the days when the use of ‘they’ as a singular pronoun was controversial. The firm implemented the change after one of its London associates researched legal documents from the last 10 initial public offerings of private company shares. But the rapid social changes surrounding individual gender identities may soon force firms to deal with far knottier issues. ‘Dear Sirs’ goes gender neutral. Except, of course, in the US where you are going to say “Dear Ladies and Gentlemen” as if you are about to commence some kind of oratory. Dear Casey Yates, This is an example of a gender-neutral way to address a recipient. Please click here to read about how we process your data in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). There is currently no formal plan to change this, but it is an area we’re happy to explore.”, Top City law firm now addresses all letters ‘Dear Sir or Madam’. But the battle against gender-neutral language is surely a losing cause, reports Melanie Newman. We should be looking at gender neutral language for our legislation too.”, Law firm Withers said the male address was “accepted standard”. US litigation powerhouse Quinn Emanuel this week adopted gender-neutral forms of address in a break with tradition. We run PDC training seminars, conferences and networking events for our members. Back in 2013 Lord Scott of Foscote, a former Appeal Court judge and Vice-Chancellor of the Supreme Court, launched a lengthy attack on the government’s suggestion that ‘they’ be used in this manner. Addressing Gender . It is more than a decade since former home secretary Jack Straw announced future laws would be gender-neutral. Meanwhile debates currently raging online about when and whether a person’s biological sex, rather than their gender, should be considered relevant are already spilling into the legal profession. She goes so far as to say lawyers should reject documents presented to them for signature if the traditional masculinised approach has been used. But these terms are not defined, leaving firms to decide how – and if – to apply them to staff who define as non-binary or are trans, but do not have a gender-recognition certificate. But in both the UK and The United States, this greeting is considered borderline offensive and sexist (because it’s unclear whether the writer is addressing a man or a woman). As a female graduate student, I attended a talk at my university by a tech executive. When dealing with individuals, establishing their personal preference is key, advises Farr: ‘If you want to be inclusive, you must take account of the individual’s views.’, Sarah Austin of Austins Solicitors agrees. Like when you have 13% female partners? An internet search pulls up 1.5m hits for the word ‘chairman’ on .gov.uk websites â€“ mainly in local government â€“ compared with 2.25m ‘chairs’. For instance, I have heard a lot of "sir" in Silicon Valley start-up culture, without a female or gender-neutral equivalent. ‘The problem is there is no rulebook on this.’. We learn in school to write letters and addressing them with Dear Mr.,Ms., or Mrs. depending on your audience. In just over a fortnight the Brexit transition period ends. Straw’s plans were not well received by then MP for Maidstone and the Weald, Ann Widdecombe, who retorted: ‘A chair is a piece of furniture… all he is doing is distorting the English language, and I would have thought he had better things to do.’. ‘The lazy and insulting – to me – use of “he” to include both genders as is the “convention” simply perpetuates unconscious bias in a very obvious way,’ she says. NEC3 ECC contains the wording: 13.4 The Project Manager replies to a communication submitted or resubmitted to him by the Contractor for acceptance. Avoid “Dear Sir or Madam” because it’s impersonal, outdated, and not gender inclusive. “Dear Sir, No More’ – Clifford Chance Uses Robots To Gender Neutralise Its Legal Documents An AI tool is used by the Big Law firm to purge its documents of sexist language. Beyond that, let… Certainly the people drafting the contracts were all male until women were permitted to join the professions [from] 1919.’. I honestly don't see the problem with it, it's just an empty phrase that's become convention. One of the UK's leading law firms has taken a lead to drop the use of the traditional "Dear Sirs" from its legal documentation in favour of a more gender neutral term "Dear Sir or Madam". While the British usage of the term stays “Dear Sir or Madam”. Elsewhere things are starting to change, though the pace is slow. I wouldn’t use this term if I were not sure who I am speaking to. It may be useful or even essential to apply gender-inclusive guidelines when writing to the following audiences: 1. individuals whose gender is unknown; 2. non-binary individuals (that is, individuals who do not identify with either the masculine or the feminine gender); 3. a diverse group of people (so that no member of the group feels excluded). City of London law firms still use the male form of address as standard. The problem with that is that Dear Sirs is not only gender-specific but also old-fashioned. Gender-inclusive writing, which avoids references to gender whenever possible, is increasingly becoming standard practice in correspondence. Change the pronoun including by turning it into a plural: ‘Participants may only carry on the regulated activities if they hold a permit.’. ‘So if you are using unnecessarily gendered language you are going to be upsetting a large chunk of your workforce.’. All staff should be trained never to assume the gender of a person’s partner until they have used a gender pronoun from which a cue can be taken, she adds. Is there a gender-neutral way of saying "Dear Sir" in a formal letter? Shadow solicitor general Ellie Reeves MP says violence against women and girls is ‘close to the top’ of her agenda. It should be avoided for a few reasons: First, today's digitally connected world makes it easier than ever to find out who you're emailing. Last modified on Fri 1 Dec 2017 23.03 EST. We represent and support our members, promoting the highest professional standards and the rule of law. But have their priorities changed? Harry Small, a partner at Baker McKenzie, says: ‘We do not recommend the use of “Ladies and Gentlemen” because it implies that gender is binary.’ Instead, his firm would start a letter to Freshfields ‘Dear Freshfields’. The use of the singular ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ to address an organisation also raised eyebrows. When Lady Butler-Sloss (pictured) was first made a lord justice of appeal, she was a lord justice until 1994. ‘You should know your client well enough to make them comfortable to indicate a preference if it is not obvious.’. Opinion is divided, reports Marialuisa Taddia. Use proper punctuation and capitalization if you are going to use it anyways, “Dear Sir or Madam,” or “Dear Sir … That’s going to upset someone who is trans or non-binary so why not just ask for their name and use that?’ But some law firms have ‘kicked back’ on that. By writing ‘Dear Sirs’, some lawyers feel they are holding out against political correctness. The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel offers drafting guidance including three techniques for avoiding gender-specific pronouns. If the gender is unknown, people should address it with a gender neutral noun. The newer term "Mx" avoids specifying gender for: Embracing uncertainty can build resilience into your business strategy. Update: Normally I would write Dear Sir, but it's going to an office where I think they are all or mostly women (the local council). If the reply is not acceptance, the Project Manager states the reasons…, ‘There was no need for the use of “him” “he” and “his” in NEC3, which makes an assumption that the relevant person – the contractor or project manager – is male,’ says Drummond. Managing Partner, Senior Associate etc; Dear Counsel” The use of “Dear Sirs”, of course, dates to the time when law firms were usually named after two or three, usually male, lawyers. This salutation should be used for communication regarding specific projects, specific concerns, or employment. So some firms are saying let’s not bother with titles at all – they get rid of them altogether. Top City law firm unveils plans to use AI to purge 'gendered language' including 'he', 'she' and 'chairman' from ALL its legal documents. Around fifty ago, Dear Sirs would be appropriate to use since it was considered a formal way to greet multiple people who you don't know, such as writing to a company. the greatest show on earth!). I work in retail. Brexit and Covid‑19 are posing major legal challenges for the UK’s vibrant pharmaceutical industry, but the government is keeping lawyers guessing. The Law Society is the independent professional body for solicitors. Dear Sirs (Gender Neutral in Business Writing?) ‘Dropping litter is an offence’, rather than ‘A person commits an offence if he drops litter’. Second, this greeting may not be reflective of the recipient's gender. @Graham even that page, which is a guide to rather dated formal conventions, says "'Dear Sir' is technically the correct form". Browse over 5,000 law jobs. Dear Sir or Madam implies that you have one specific person in mind for this letter, but do not know their name, title, or gender. Are there any circumstances where the change to gender-neutral could make a clause too ambiguous? While Freshfields tells the Gazette the initiative was ‘very well received’, it was not without its critics, including those who saw it as paying lip service to equality at a time when less than 20% of the firm’s partners were female. Designed to give members efficient, easy access to high quality courses. A gender neutral title is a title that does not indicate the gender of the person being formally addressed, such as in a letter or other communication, or when introducing the person to others. Of the letters coming into Cartridges Law, where Bridget Garrood is a consulting partner, 99% still commence ‘Dear Sirs’, although for several years the firm’s partners have all been female. Garrood, a member of the LGBT+ lawyers division of the Law Society, has heard multiple anecdotal reports of people ringing solicitors firms who have been automatically assumed to have a partner of the opposite sex. In practice making these kinds of changes can be difficult, Reese says. - Quora. Use of male pronouns to apply to both sexes was potentially confusing, he argued, and could be seen as reinforcing gender stereotypes. News focus: 'Wreckers' absent from human rights review panel, The Life and Strange Adventures of Bishopsgate Crusoe, Solicitor, News focus: Post-Beckwith, SRA must focus on 'what matters to clients’, PII: Now is the time to act for spring renewals, The fallacy of the homeworking revolution, Slashed budgets put junior lawyers in frame for GC posts, Prince Charles tells GCs: you must act on climate change, Lawyer in the news: Aston Luff, Hodge Jones & Allen, My legal life: Charlotte Bradley, Kingsley Napley, Find out more about the benefits of membership. One of Britain’s most prestigious law firms has banned the use of “Dear sirs” from all of its legal documents and communications, apparently the first of the “magic circle” of top City legal companies to do so. Although it’s best to avoid gender-specific drafting (see 17.10), the gender neutral alternatives to Dear Sirs are too awkward to use in this context. “It’s to be welcomed, but it is pretty basic stuff which we should all be doing really. I’ve been in practice since October (4 months) and have already received at least 10 correspondences addressed to “Mr. Eduardo Reyes reports. Not if it is drafted correctly, says Iain Drummond, partner at Shepherd and Wedderburn LLP. ‘It would be perfectly possible to have a contract which referred to both parties as “he” and it would be unclear to which it referred,’ she says. Equivalents in Cantonese, Mandarin and European languages have also been agreed across Freshfields’ global network. Firms should focus on connectivity, communication and cloud to ensure robust systems are in place. Eduardo Reyes reports. What happens if the transgender man who gives birth feels discriminated against as a result of the pregnancy? Mam and sir are so outdated, though safe. ‘But there are no “no-go areas” in the British constitution: the constitution is what parliament says it is. I say “OK, but if 4% of the UK population is trans you may not hit the marker correctly and upset someone”.’. In the most recent suite released in 2017, NEC4, each contract within the suite was amended to only use gender-neutral language, rather than male pronouns. Our Privacy Policy has changed. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has stopped using the phrase from this weekend. ‘LGBT+ people, myself included, can find this pretty uncomfortable,’ she explains. In the UK the firm will now address all communications to “Dear Sir or Madam”, while in the US all correspondence internally and to clients will start with “Dear Ladies and Gentlemen”. The Register General’s present position is that any transgender man who gives birth – even someone legally recognised as male – must be registered as the child’s mother. What now for the legal profession? Clause 11.2 in the updated NEC4 Engineering and Construction Contract reads: • done all the work which the Scope states is to be done by the Completion Date…. Others truly mean gender-neutral, often because they want template documents that can be applied to the whole workforce with minimal amendments. Even parliament continues to use ‘he’ in legislation, the assumption being that that will refer to everyone. Dear Sir/Madam IS gender-neutral - it lists both of the most common genders. It would be very unkind,’ says Reese. And third, it's vague and a bit lazy. The contrary argument is that discrimination on the basis of biology occurs regardless of gender identity and that obscuring data on sex would do a disservice to a larger number of female staff. For example, Ladies and Gentlemen makes it sound as if one is writing to a group of individuals. The clients of City law firms can begin to plan for life after Covid-19. Does, for example, the constitution demand that it is always ‘lord chancellor’? ‘We are getting statistics from the US that suggest 12% of the workforce is non-binary,’ she says. Jane B Kulow: May 26, 1997 12:00 AM: Posted in group: ... (I am told that Dear Sirs/Madams tends to make a >feministic "statement" which I prefer to avoid) (and I agree) > For some years I've used "Dear Sir or Madam" and have never felt I was Update 2: I actually prefer Sir/Madam to "To whom it … Client requests for gender-neutral documents sometimes turn out on further enquiry to mean ‘gender-specific’, she adds. Endings I think my father is correct that these should be on the formal side. Garrood recommends keeping language as gender-neutral as possible, in document drafting and in the firm generally. Greeting and interacting with customers is the most important thing I do. In 2017 HSBC announced it was offering customers a choice of nine titles, including ‘M’, ‘Misc’, an abbreviation of miscellaneous, and ‘Mre’, which stands for ‘mystery’. Try hard to find the hiring manager’s name, as that’s the ideal way to address a cover letter. It sounds simple. By comparison, the traditional honorifics of Miss, Mrs, Ms and Mr all indicate the binary gender of the individual.. ‘The same Act (s64) now empowers the lord chancellor to change the title and mode of address of most judicial office-holders from lord chief justice down and including masters,’ says Small. ‘The challenge for any drafter is to ensure that the meaning of a clause or term is clear and unambiguous, and in my view, the use of gender-neutral language should not make this task any more or less difficult,’ he says. Some of Straw’s intended audience clearly also feel they have ‘better things to do’ than worry about gender-neutral language. ‘To turn the point around, using gender should not be a defence to sloppy drafting!’, She concedes, however, that simple substitutions of singular pronouns could cause confusion: ‘You may need to repeat the name of the party or the defined term if there is any doubt or to emphasise that both the parties to the contract are entitled to do something.’. The law is going to have to catch up,’ says Reese. ‘It’s usually an older employee who says they like using “sir” and “madam”. That undoubtedly remains the view in the dustier parts of the legal profession. Will Covid-19 revolutionise the market for commercial property, or just accelerate existing trends? Words such as ‘chairman’ were too often used for offices open to either sex and should be outlawed, he added. Dear Sir / Sirs, Gentlemen etc are specifically male. They only let you put one field in. A case involving a transgender man who gave birth and wants to be registered as the father on the birth certificate is currently being heard in the High Court. Irrespective of what happens in the case Reese says there is likely to be a move away from the language of ‘mother’ and ‘father’ in parental leave policies and other documents towards, for example, ‘person carrying the child’ and ‘person not carrying the child’. He points to the NEC Contracts, a suite of standard contracts widely used within the construction industry. LONDON: One of the UK's leading law firms has taken a lead to drop the use of the traditional "Dear Sirs" from its legal documentation in favour of a more gender neutral term "Dear Sir or Madam". What if I write Dear Sir and the letter lands on the desk of woman official? The male-oriented salutation has been replaced by a number of gender neutral equivalents across its global network. ‘What we’re finding is that a lot of systems are not very customisable. This is why our blog post recommends avoiding salutations such as “Dear Sir or Madam,” “Dear Mr. Smith” or “Dear Ms. Brown” in correspondence: “The problem with these formulas is that a non … The gender-neutral equivalent really should be Dear Sirs and Mesdames; the formulation Ladies and Gentlemen that people sometimes use has (to me, anyway) an air of the circus tent to it (Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! Some firms have added the title ‘Mx’ to their systems to recognise people who do not wish to be identified by a particular gender. ‘It’s very complicated. People do not tend to use titles, or want them.’. Perhaps we can get in into the dictionary to officially bring a gender-neutral “sir/ma’am” into existence. Rachel Reese, whose company Global Butterflies advises law firms on how to become more transgender-inclusive, says a large proportion of the generations born after 1981 do not see gender as a binary concept, but as â€˜fluid’. Gent’am – A respectful way to greet a man or a woman This word can be used as a substitute for “sir” or “ma’am,” and is appropriate and honorable for both the young and elderly. Is that the kind of inadvertent alienation we’re talking about? ‘This is particularly important when their relationship is at the centre of their enquiry, for example when they ring solicitors for advice about a separation.’. And that fits with a trend we’re seeing among audiences when we do our training. What about the fact that when you change “Dear Sirs” to “Dear Sir or Madam” you’re still putting the male version first? The Solicitors Regulation Authority has come under fire for not specifically asking practitioners to specify their sex in a survey of the profession’s diversity. ‘A person who practises without a permit commits an offence’, rather than ‘A person commits an offence if he practises without a permit’. Solicitors pointed out on social media that sex is one of the protected characteristics stipulated by the Equality Act 2010 and that failing to collect this data would make it more difficult to determine whether firms are discriminating on this ground, or to compare with previous years. Professional support lawyer Rachel Farr, whose firm Taylor Wessing is receiving increasing numbers of enquiries about gender-neutral documents, also thinks gender-neutral language is not imprecise. Gender pay reporting legislation requires larger employers to publish annual calculations showing the pay gap between ‘men’ and ‘women’ on their staff. Rephrase to avoid the need for a pronoun or noun altogether: ‘Immediately before death’, rather than ‘immediately before his death’. By writing ‘Dear Sirs’, some lawyers feel they are holding out against political correctness. Dear Sir may have been an acceptable gender-neutral salutation some time ago, but I would suggest 'To whom it may concern,' as a more modern and suitable alternative :). I received this question about a gender-neutral way to say sir or ma’am in English via the “Ask Dan” section of the website: Dan. But while amending a policy may seem straightforward, there are implications of decoupling certain terms from the sex with which they have traditionally been associated. A further example can be found at Clause 13.4. ‘It means you have to decide, often in your very first seconds of contact with a business, whether or not you are prepared to “out” yourself.’. Putting 'dear sir/ma'am' at the beginning of a letter is preferred over 'To Whom it May Concern' (the latter is considered rude in recent times), but sir/ma'am language assumes gender binaries and such. ‘The very occasional letter is addressed “Mesdames” which is quaint and nicely European in these difficult times, but hardly suitable for the 21st century,’ she says. Law Society Publishing titles, e-books and selected key works from other legal publishers. She prefers her firm to be addressed as: ‘Dear Cartridges Law’, ‘Dear Solicitors’ or ‘Dear Lawyers’. ‘The gendered terms “mother” and “father” may not make any sense any more.’. I still get referred to as ‘Mr Sam Smethers’ by the media, despite being the chief executive of a women’s charity. In the United States, variations of this greeting include “Dear Sirs”. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer would now use ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ in UK correspondence and ‘Dear Ladies and Gentlemen’ in the US, it said, with equivalents in other languages used in the firm’s international offices. The guidance discusses the use of ‘they’ to replace ‘he’ or ‘she’ as a singular pronoun – a grammatical matter that has become somewhat controversial, as awareness of gendered language has entered the mainstream. The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel’s drafting guidance includes three techniques for avoiding gender-specific pronouns: Repeat the noun or substitute it with a letter: ‘Earnings, in relation to a person, means sums payable to the person in connection with the person’s employment.’, ‘If a person (“P”) who is registered in respect of a regulated activity carries on that activity while P’s registration is suspended, P is guilty of an offence.’. He called on each man who had a question by saying, "Sir," but he called on me with merely, "Yes." In that year the master of the rolls directed that she should be known informally as lady justice and addressed as ‘my lady’, notes Baker McKenzie’s Harry Small.

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