So some firms are saying let’s not bother with titles at all – they get rid of them altogether. Try hard to find the hiring manager’s name, as that’s the ideal way to address a cover letter. 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. Dear Sirs (Gender Neutral in Business Writing?) The newer term "Mx" avoids specifying gender for: I honestly don't see the problem with it, it's just an empty phrase that's become convention. We run PDC training seminars, conferences and networking events for our members. I wouldn’t use this term if I were not sure who I am speaking to. 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…. It would be very unkind,’ says Reese. But the battle against gender-neutral language is surely a losing cause, reports Melanie Newman. Dear Sir/Madam IS gender-neutral - it lists both of the most common genders. However, this greeting is not gender-neutral and was mostly used when men dominated management positions. 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. 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 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”. ‘So if you are using unnecessarily gendered language you are going to be upsetting a large chunk of your workforce.’. He called on each man who had a question by saying, "Sir," but he called on me with merely, "Yes." What happens if the transgender man who gives birth feels discriminated against as a result of the pregnancy? If it’s an organisation, then we currently use ‘Dear Sirs’ as that remains the accepted standard. 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. 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’. I’ve been in practice since October (4 months) and have already received at least 10 correspondences addressed to “Mr. 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. Beyond that, let… 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 … ‘It’s very complicated. Use of male pronouns to apply to both sexes was potentially confusing, he argued, and could be seen as reinforcing gender stereotypes. We learn in school to write letters and addressing them with Dear Mr.,Ms., or Mrs. depending on your audience. @Graham even that page, which is a guide to rather dated formal conventions, says "'Dear Sir' is technically the correct form". People do not tend to use titles, or want them.’. But have their priorities changed? 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.’. It sounds simple. Even parliament continues to use ‘he’ in legislation, the assumption being that that will refer to everyone. By writing ‘Dear Sirs’, some lawyers feel they are holding out against political correctness. 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’. - Quora. In just over a fortnight the Brexit transition period ends. ‘The lord chancellor cannot change their own designation under the 2003 act mentioned above,’ says Small. 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. Brexit and Covid‑19 are posing major legal challenges for the UK’s vibrant pharmaceutical industry, but the government is keeping lawyers guessing. If you do not feel comfortable using a gender-specific personal title like "Sir" or "Ms.", just use their full name. ‘You should know your client well enough to make them comfortable to indicate a preference if it is not obvious.’. And third, it's vague and a bit lazy. Is there a gender-neutral way of saying "Dear Sir" in a formal letter? While the British usage of the term stays “Dear Sir or Madam”. Elsewhere things are starting to change, though the pace is slow. If the gender is unknown, people should address it with a gender neutral noun. 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. 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. Designed to give members efficient, easy access to high quality courses. Client requests for gender-neutral documents sometimes turn out on further enquiry to mean ‘gender-specific’, she adds. By writing ‘Dear Sirs’, some lawyers feel they are holding out against political correctness. Garrood recommends keeping language as gender-neutral as possible, in document drafting and in the firm generally. A further example can be found at Clause 13.4. Technically "he" can be used in a gender-neutral sense and it historically has been. 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. ‘We are getting statistics from the US that suggest 12% of the workforce is non-binary,’ she says. 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’. Second, this greeting may not be reflective of the recipient's gender. Not if it is drafted correctly, says Iain Drummond, partner at Shepherd and Wedderburn LLP. Gender pay reporting legislation requires larger employers to publish annual calculations showing the pay gap between ‘men’ and ‘women’ on their staff. Endings I think my father is correct that these should be on the formal side. 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. Perhaps we can get in into the dictionary to officially bring a gender-neutral “sir/ma’am” into existence. Certainly the people drafting the contracts were all male until women were permitted to join the professions [from] 1919.’. 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. ‘The problem is there is no rulebook on this.’. 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. 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! In a House of Lords debate that year he cited examples of ‘appalling drafting’ such as ‘the claimant or their partner is a person’, and ‘an adult who is not the claimant’s partner if they are part of the claimant’s Extended Benefit Unit’. ‘It’s usually an older employee who says they like using “sir” and “madam”. This article is more than 4 years old. You are correct: the salutation “Dear Sir or Madam” is not gender inclusive. Get jobs by email. What now for the legal profession? ‘Dropping litter is an offence’, rather than ‘A person commits an offence if he drops litter’. Greeting and interacting with customers is the most important thing I do. 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. Poor grammar is one of the primary reasons that cover letters are rejected. ‘LGBT+ people, myself included, can find this pretty uncomfortable,’ she explains. She goes so far as to say lawyers should reject documents presented to them for signature if the traditional masculinised approach has been used. 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. The problem with that is that Dear Sirs is not only gender-specific but also old-fashioned. 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.’. 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”. I still get referred to as ‘Mr Sam Smethers’ by the media, despite being the chief executive of a women’s charity. 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. Browse over 5,000 law jobs. Opinion is divided, reports Marialuisa Taddia. It brings you quick, access to the library catalogue and value added legal information sources. 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. Please click here to read about how we process your data in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). He points to the NEC Contracts, a suite of standard contracts widely used within the construction industry. Gender-inclusive writing, which avoids references to gender whenever possible, is increasingly becoming standard practice in correspondence. We represent and support our members, promoting the highest professional standards and the rule of law. Update 2: I actually prefer Sir/Madam to "To whom it … If they are an individual then it depends on their gender and title. ‘A person who practises without a permit commits an offence’, rather than ‘A person commits an offence if he practises without a permit’. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has stopped using the phrase from this weekend. ‘But there are no “no-go areas” in the British constitution: the constitution is what parliament says it is. Apparently managing partner Chris Pugh said: Inadvertently? 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. As a female graduate student, I attended a talk at my university by a tech executive. The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel offers drafting guidance including three techniques for avoiding gender-specific pronouns. 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. City of London law firms still use the male form of address as standard. 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. Top City law firm unveils plans to use AI to purge 'gendered language' including 'he', 'she' and 'chairman' from ALL its legal documents. Will Covid-19 revolutionise the market for commercial property, or just accelerate existing trends? We should be looking at gender neutral language for our legislation too.”, Law firm Withers said the male address was “accepted standard”. 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). Dear Casey Yates, This is an example of a gender-neutral way to address a recipient. ‘It would be pretty crude if a law firm said you are technically male, so we’ll just tick that. ‘You’ve got people looking at someone and saying “hello sir”. 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 We have to think about the language we use as it reveals the assumptions and decisions being made. Is that the kind of inadvertent alienation we’re talking about? Eduardo Reyes reports. by LawFuel Editors December 12, 2020, 12:53 am 365 Views Equivalents in Cantonese, Mandarin and European languages have also been agreed across Freshfields’ global network. But the rapid social changes surrounding individual gender identities may soon force firms to deal with far knottier issues. Others truly mean gender-neutral, often because they want template documents that can be applied to the whole workforce with minimal amendments. For instance, I have heard a lot of "sir" in Silicon Valley start-up culture, without a female or gender-neutral equivalent. “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. ‘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.’. the greatest show on earth!). 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. For example, Ladies and Gentlemen makes it sound as if one is writing to a group of individuals. 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…. Reader M has a question about gender-neutral names… I am a new practicing attorney with a gender-neutral name. She prefers her firm to be addressed as: ‘Dear Cartridges Law’, ‘Dear Solicitors’ or ‘Dear Lawyers’. 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.’. 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. 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 gendered terms “mother” and “father” may not make any sense any more.’. That doesn't mean it's anything other than a stupidly bad idea to do so in modern writing. Words such as ‘chairman’ were too often used for offices open to either sex and should be outlawed, he added. Avoid “Dear Sir or Madam” because it’s impersonal, outdated, and not gender inclusive.