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Top City law firm to purge ‘gendered language’ from all its templates 

Top City law firm unveils plans to use AI to purge ‘gendered language’ including ‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘chairman’ from all its legal documents

  • Clifford Chance is one of the so called ‘Magic Circle’ elite London law firms
  • Company unveiled plans to ‘eliminate gendered language’ in legal templates 
  • Instructed management business LexPredict to remove use of ‘he’, ‘she’, and ‘chairman’ from documents

An elite City law firm has revealed plans to purge ‘gendered language’ from its legal document templates – and will use robots to do the dirty work.

Clifford Chance, one of the five so-called ‘Magic Circle’ firms, has already removed the greeting ‘Dear Sirs’ from its English language letter template, but now want to ‘eliminate’ so-called ‘gendered’ language across all legal templates.

As part of the change, pronouns such as ‘he’ or ‘she’ will be replaced with ‘they’ or ‘them’, and the use of the word ‘chairman’ will be banished.

The law company has instructed LexPredict, a knowledge management business, to use artificial intelligence to identify and eradicate gender-specific terms in templates. 

Clifford Chance, one of the five so-called ‘Magic Circle’ firms, has already removed the gendered greeting ‘Dear Sirs’ from its English language letter template, but now want to ‘eliminate’ gendered terms across all legal templates. Centre: Clifford Chance’s Canary Wharf offices

Tiernan Brady, the firm’s global director of inclusion, said: ‘The words and language we use matter greatly. They send a signal of our values and can have both a positive and negative impact on others and on our culture.

‘Removing gendered language from our communications is a subtle but impactful way of demonstrating what we stand for, and we’re delighted to see these steps taken in our firm.’

But lawyers are well-known stickler for precision and detail, and some more traditional partner are said to be resistant to the changes which they see as a weakening in standards.

Mr Brady told The Times: ‘Some of the off-the-shelf legal contract templates have been around for years.’

Tiernan Brady, the firm's global director of inclusion, said: 'The words and language we use matter greatly. They send a signal of our values and can have both a positive and negative impact on others and on our culture'

Tiernan Brady, the firm’s global director of inclusion, said: ‘The words and language we use matter greatly. They send a signal of our values and can have both a positive and negative impact on others and on our culture’

He argued that purging these ‘gender-specific’ terms was ‘the logical next step to a process that has been evolving over recent years’.

The move comes after one of Clifford Chance’s elite rivals, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, ditched the ‘gendered’ salutation of ‘Dear Sirs’, which had been used regardless of who the correspondence was addressed to. 

Another magic circle member, Linklaters, was also said to be evaluating its communications to ensure that language ‘appropriate for all genders’ was employed.

Gender pronouns will not be banned however. Clients can request for references to ‘he’, ‘she’, and ‘chairman’ to be included in their documents. 

Rachel Reese of Global Butterflies, which supported the government’s legal department in compiling a gender-neutral drafting document, said: ‘We applaud Clifford Chance’s implementation of their Global Policy on Gender Neutral Language, this demonstrates their intention to attract employees and clients from the trans and non-binary community.’

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