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Goodbye ‘Dear Sirs’?

Wednesday, 7th October, 2020 3:14pm

Solicitors across Cork are being encouraged to drop the ‘Dear Sirs’ salutation in all formal letters and emails with women now taking up 51 per cent of the solicitors’ profession.

The Law Society of Ireland has launched a new policy to discontinue what it described as an “outdated” salutation. The Society said ‘Dear Sirs’ was traditionally used on all formal letters and business emails where the recipient was unknown.

Flor McCarthy, Managing Partner of McCarthy + Co Solicitors LLP in Clonakilty, told the Cork Independent that he welcomed the news that solicitors were being encouraged to drop the greeting.

He explained: “It’s a very neutral expression that is and has been used in traditional letters that were being sent from one solicitor’s firm to another to as well as other businesses, banks and government departments. It wasn’t used to address someone personally (like dear John or Mary).

“The tradition was always to put down ‘dear sirs’ and it became convenient. Even though it was so obviously male it had been adopted as neutral and it was decided that this was just something that was used universally. It was convenient as you didn’t have to think about how to start the letter but it is unconsciously offensive to some.”

Mr McCarthy added: “There are some, however, who have had a cynical view on this and asking is it PC gone mad? Some women have said to me, do we really need to be doing this in the middle of a pandemic. There are two sides to this and it’s not something that everybody is universally saying ‘this is great, lets all do it’. But I think it’s a very good idea and a positive move. It’s a small thing but words like that matter to people given how much diversity there is in Ireland now and in terms of a person’s gender identity.”

Meanwhile the President of the Law Society of Ireland, Michele O’Boyle, was also keen to stress that this Law Society policy change wasn’t a “women’s issue”.

She added: “The Law Society is encouraging Cork solicitors and all colleagues across the legal profession to retire the male-centric ‘Dear Sirs’ phrase and adopt greetings that have a more inclusive modern approach. It is entirely a matter for each firm if they choose to adopt an alternative salutation or not, however, it is an initiative the Law Society is encouraging. This Law Society policy change is not a ‘women’s issue’. It is social progress. Women now make up over 51 per cent of the solicitors’ profession and the use of the ‘Dear Sirs’ salutation is no longer accurate. There are many other suitable alternatives to ‘Dear Sirs’,” said Ms O’Boyle.

“Dear Mr/Ms Surname, Dear Colleague, Dear Counsel, A Chara, or Dear Position, i.e. Dear Managing Partner, Dear Principal, Dear Senior Associate etc. I anticipate that my colleagues across the profession will welcome this initiative and, will adopt personalised, gender appropriate or gender neutral greetings. It is an easy adjustment to make which will result in a more inclusive profession, however, I wish to stress that it is entirely a matter for each firm if they choose to adopt an alternative salutation or not,” she concluded.

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