‘You should know your client well enough to make them comfortable to indicate a preference if it is not obvious.’. ‘The gendered terms “mother” and “father” may not make any sense any more.’. He called on each man who had a question by saying, "Sir," but he called on me with merely, "Yes." 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…. But the battle against gender-neutral language is surely a losing cause, reports Melanie Newman. It sounds simple. Poor grammar is one of the primary reasons that cover letters are rejected. Our Privacy Policy has changed. In the United States, variations of this greeting include “Dear Sirs”. What happens if the transgender man who gives birth feels discriminated against as a result of the pregnancy? US litigation powerhouse Quinn Emanuel this week adopted gender-neutral forms of address in a break with tradition. ‘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. 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”. We represent and support our members, promoting the highest professional standards and the rule of law. Change the pronoun including by turning it into a plural: ‘Participants may only carry on the regulated activities if they hold a permit.’. ‘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 firm implemented the change after one of its London associates researched legal documents from the last 10 initial public offerings of private company shares. 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.’. In just over a fortnight the Brexit transition period ends. They only let you put one field in. Eduardo Reyes reports. Elsewhere things are starting to change, though the pace is slow. The clients of City law firms can begin to plan for life after Covid-19. ‘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.’. 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. But the rapid social changes surrounding individual gender identities may soon force firms to deal with far knottier issues. 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 it’s an organisation, then we currently use ‘Dear Sirs’ as that remains the accepted standard. 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. 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’. Certainly the people drafting the contracts were all male until women were permitted to join the professions [from] 1919.’. Last modified on Fri 1 Dec 2017 23.03 EST. ‘Dear Sirs’ goes gender neutral. ‘What we’re finding is that a lot of systems are not very customisable. 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. However, this greeting is not gender-neutral and was mostly used when men dominated management positions. We have to think about the language we use as it reveals the assumptions and decisions being made. She prefers her firm to be addressed as: ‘Dear Cartridges Law’, ‘Dear Solicitors’ or ‘Dear Lawyers’. Brexit and Covid‑19 are posing major legal challenges for the UK’s vibrant pharmaceutical industry, but the government is keeping lawyers guessing. 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’. Technically "he" can be used in a gender-neutral sense and it historically has been. Second, this greeting may not be reflective of the recipient's gender. 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. I’ve been in practice since October (4 months) and have already received at least 10 correspondences addressed to “Mr. Endings I think my father is correct that these should be on the formal side. That undoubtedly remains the view in the dustier parts of the legal profession. ‘The updated wording in NEC4 is straightforward, and does not alter the meaning of either of these clauses.’. If they are an individual then it depends on their gender and title. Some firms have added the title ‘Mx’ to their systems to recognise people who do not wish to be identified by a particular gender. Is that the kind of inadvertent alienation we’re talking about? I wouldn’t use this term if I were not sure who I am speaking to. The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel offers drafting guidance including three techniques for avoiding gender-specific pronouns. 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). 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. It brings you quick, access to the library catalogue and value added legal information sources. NEC3 ECC contains the wording: 13.4 The Project Manager replies to a communication submitted or resubmitted to him by the Contractor for acceptance. 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. ‘It would be pretty crude if a law firm said you are technically male, so we’ll just tick that. ‘A person who practises without a permit commits an offence’, rather than ‘A person commits an offence if he practises without a permit’. 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. ‘It’s usually an older employee who says they like using “sir” and “madam”. 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. 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. 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. Not if it is drafted correctly, says Iain Drummond, partner at Shepherd and Wedderburn LLP. 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. 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. 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. Apparently managing partner Chris Pugh said: Inadvertently? by LawFuel Editors December 12, 2020, 12:53 am 365 Views 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. Embracing uncertainty can build resilience into your business strategy. What if I write Dear Sir and the letter lands on the desk of woman official? The newer term "Mx" avoids specifying gender for: It would be very unkind,’ says Reese. Is there a gender-neutral way of saying "Dear Sir" in a formal letter? ‘This is a throwback, presumably, to when people in business entering contracts were all males. 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! However, the Oxford English Dictionary recognises the long-established use of ‘they’ as a singular pronoun, and historical documents show it has been used in this way for centuries. If the gender is unknown, people should address it with a gender neutral noun. ‘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. 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’. 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. When Lady Butler-Sloss (pictured) was first made a lord justice of appeal, she was a lord justice until 1994. Will Covid-19 revolutionise the market for commercial property, or just accelerate existing trends? Gender-inclusive writing, which avoids references to gender whenever possible, is increasingly becoming standard practice in correspondence. While you should always address your letters as specifically as possible, if you can't obtain the person's gender, you can use their first and last names: Dear Rory Smythe. ‘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. Firms should focus on connectivity, communication and cloud to ensure robust systems are in place. @Graham even that page, which is a guide to rather dated formal conventions, says "'Dear Sir' is technically the correct form". Equivalents in Cantonese, Mandarin and European languages have also been agreed across Freshfields’ global network. Words such as ‘chairman’ were too often used for offices open to either sex and should be outlawed, he added. Addressing Gender . 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’. I still get referred to as ‘Mr Sam Smethers’ by the media, despite being the chief executive of a women’s charity. Suggestions for a more gender neutral approach include: Dear Mr/Ms Surname; Dear Colleague; Dear Position i.e. ‘But there are no “no-go areas” in the British constitution: the constitution is what parliament says it is. I honestly don't see the problem with it, it's just an empty phrase that's become convention. Opinion is divided, reports Marialuisa Taddia. 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. ‘It’s very complicated. And that fits with a trend we’re seeing among audiences when we do our training. She goes so far as to say lawyers should reject documents presented to them for signature if the traditional masculinised approach has been used. 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. Even parliament continues to use ‘he’ in legislation, the assumption being that that will refer to everyone. Client requests for gender-neutral documents sometimes turn out on further enquiry to mean ‘gender-specific’, she adds. Like when you have 13% female partners? I work in retail. Therefore, "sir" should not be used in all cases.If you know the editor is male, then by all means, use "sir". Dear Casey Yates, This is an example of a gender-neutral way to address a recipient. When writing to a company, say for example, XYZ Insurance Co., how do you write salutation in a gender neutral way? Eduardo Reyes reports. Try hard to find the hiring manager’s name, as that’s the ideal way to address a cover letter. ‘The problem is there is no rulebook on this.’. 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. We learn in school to write letters and addressing them with Dear Mr.,Ms., or Mrs. depending on your audience. 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’. What about the fact that when you change “Dear Sirs” to “Dear Sir or Madam” you’re still putting the male version first? Designed to give members efficient, easy access to high quality courses. 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. 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. Get jobs by email. It found 81 law firms and banks exclusively used “Dear Sirs” on letters and communications during the process. It was not until 2016 that the first of the magic circle law firms banned the salutation ‘Dear Sirs’ from its legal documents and communications. Dear Sirs (Gender Neutral in Business Writing?) So some firms are saying let’s not bother with titles at all – they get rid of them altogether. Rephrase to avoid the need for a pronoun or noun altogether: ‘Immediately before death’, rather than ‘immediately before his death’. Perhaps we can get in into the dictionary to officially bring a gender-neutral “sir/ma’am” into existence. City of London law firms still use the male form of address as standard. The male-oriented salutation has been replaced by a number of gender neutral equivalents across its global network. But are there titles that cannot be changed? Reader M has a question about gender-neutral names… I am a new practicing attorney with a gender-neutral name. To be as inclusive as possibl… Are there any circumstances where the change to gender-neutral could make a clause too ambiguous? 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. 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". I say “OK, but if 4% of the UK population is trans you may not hit the marker correctly and upset someone”.’. Greeting and interacting with customers is the most important thing I do. We run PDC training seminars, conferences and networking events for our members. By writing ‘Dear Sirs’, some lawyers feel they are holding out against political correctness. 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. The use of the singular ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ to address an organisation also raised eyebrows. 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. “It’s to be welcomed, but it is pretty basic stuff which we should all be doing really. 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 :). ‘You’ve got people looking at someone and saying “hello sir”. ‘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. Use proper punctuation and capitalization if you are going to use it anyways, “Dear Sir or Madam,” or “Dear Sir … the greatest show on earth!). Does, for example, the constitution demand that it is always ‘lord chancellor’? 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. The Law Society is the independent professional body for solicitors. The problem with that is that Dear Sirs is not only gender-specific but also old-fashioned. Beyond that, let… 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. 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”. 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. 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.’. 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. 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. 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). ‘So if you are using unnecessarily gendered language you are going to be upsetting a large chunk of your workforce.’. He points to the NEC Contracts, a suite of standard contracts widely used within the construction industry. 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". 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 … Law Society Publishing titles, e-books and selected key works from other legal publishers. ‘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. While the British usage of the term stays “Dear Sir or Madam”. That doesn't mean it's anything other than a stupidly bad idea to do so in modern writing. 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. A further example can be found at Clause 13.4. If you do not feel comfortable using a gender-specific personal title like "Sir" or "Ms.", just use their full name. - Quora. 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). You can use the appropriate gender title (such as "Sir" or "Madam") if you know the gender of the person but not their name. This article is more than 4 years old. “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. Browse over 5,000 law jobs. Garrood recommends keeping language as gender-neutral as possible, in document drafting and in the firm generally. 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. 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. 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…. 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. Marialuisa Taddia reports. This salutation should be used for communication regarding specific projects, specific concerns, or employment. 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. We should be looking at gender neutral language for our legislation too.”, Law firm Withers said the male address was “accepted standard”. Some of Straw’s intended audience clearly also feel they have ‘better things to do’ than worry about gender-neutral language. You are correct: the salutation “Dear Sir or Madam” is not gender inclusive. What now for the legal profession? Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer said it has stopped using the phrase from this weekend. In practice making these kinds of changes can be difficult, Reese says. Others truly mean gender-neutral, often because they want template documents that can be applied to the whole workforce with minimal amendments. By writing ‘Dear Sirs’, some lawyers feel they are holding out against political correctness. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has stopped using the phrase from this weekend. ‘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.’. Top City law firm unveils plans to use AI to purge 'gendered language' including 'he', 'she' and 'chairman' from ALL its legal documents. 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’.