SOME of the UK’s most high-powered female lawyers convened at the Southbank Centre on Saturday afternoon to debate the “chronic inequality” at City law firms.

The panel, chaired by Denise Jagger from legal practice Eversheds, which organised the event, contained some of the most high-powered women in the industry (pictured right), including Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, deputy vice president of the Law Society; Dame Janet Gaymer, former senior partner of Simmons & Simmons; and Kim Hollis QC, incoming chair of the Bar Council’s Equality and Diversity Committee.

The fearsome legal eagles didn’t mince their words, reminding a rapt audience of high-flying female contemporaries that just 15 per cent of High Court judges are women, and only one female judge sits on the Supreme Court.

“It’s a disgrace,” thundered Ingrid Simler QC, current chair of the Bar Council’s Diversity and Equality Committee. “The only way to address [the inequality] is by using quotas. If that means women getting jobs because they are women then so be it. Men have been getting appointed because they are men for years!”

That’s one step ahead of the coalition government’s Equality Act, which will allow City bosses to discriminate positively towards minorities from next month.

However, the majority of the panel were in favour – if only to prevent top lawyers jumping ship due to City firms’ “long hours culture”. Sandie Okoro, general counsel at Barings Asset Management, noted: “Many good female lawyers are leaving law firms before achieving partnership and heading for industry, where diversity has progressed further.”

HAVE you ever wondered how Secrets, London’s largest table-dancing chain, got its name? Well, as owner Stephen Less told The Capitalist, it is because he was watching the Mike Leigh film Secrets & Lies in the kitchen of his Hammersmith home when his business partner rang asking him to confirm the name of the enterprise.

So all eyes should start scanning the TV schedules for clues as to what Less will call his next entertainment launch: a cocktail bar for City boys that will attract a “classier” crowd than his table-dancing haunts.

Less has yet to negotiate a deal for the venue, set to open next year, but he is looking at four locations in the West End and two round the corner from the Bank of England – although he has ruled out 14 Cornhill, home of Green’s oyster bar and Aviva Investors.

“There are a few reasons why that wouldn’t work for me,” he said. One of them being the fact the building is owned by Libya’s sovereign wealth fund, the Libyan Investment Authority, and Less’s new club would become a tenant of Gadaffi? “I couldn’t possibly comment.”

THE City and horse racing have long enjoyed a close relationship, but today the two worlds moved even closer with the launch of the first-ever tie-up between an old-school bookmaker and a financial spread-better.

Bringing the Square Mile to Mayfair is Fitzdares Financial Spreads, a partnership between private bookmaker Fitzdares and Financial World Spreads that will allow Fitzdares’ members to bet on 3,000 City markets alongside the existing spread-betting and sports services.

“This is all about enabling those with a taste for risk to exercise it wherever they want,” said Conor Foley, chief executive of World Spreads, on the “one-stop betting environment”. Cheltenham will never be the same again.