Workplace diversity is an important issue in all industries, and like other industries the legal sector has much room for improvement on this issue. Encouragingly, law firms have been making a concerted effort to promote the diversity of their staff.
What measures can the legal industry take to further improve levels of diversity?
The legal industry has made significant progress in the last few years in making the profession more attractive and accessible to a diverse talent pool. This has included collaborating in the area of social mobility: providing work experience to those from disadvantaged backgrounds to increase aspiration and career opportunities. Similarly there are networks to bring together firms’ LGBT networks, working together to promote awareness and understanding. On gender equality we are seeing more firms commit to a target for female representation within their partnerships: businesses regularly set targets for key areas of performance and it is a really positive development to see diversity being recognised as one of these.
At Taylor Wessing we value difference: we have developed a series of partner-led initiatives aimed at getting everyone talking. We are having ‘big conversations’ – looking at the steps we can take to make our culture even more inclusive; we have a flexible working think tank, considering how we build agility into our working practices; we have a reverse mentoring scheme, in which over 40% of our partners are being mentored by a junior female lawyer; and we launched a Straight Allies programme. All of which we hope will see us thrive together as a firm and as a team.
What efforts has your firm made to be an inclusive employer?
An inclusive employer encourages a culture where people feel able to bring their whole self to work without fear of discrimination. Inclusion underpins our approach to unlocking all the benefits off a diverse workforce. This includes our policies, employee network groups and education.
- Our policies include everyone and our parenting policies offer equal benefits to both mothers, fathers, adoptive and surrogate parents.
- We launched our family network first because it included everybody in the practice, offering support and advice on parenting, wellbeing and eldercare. We also have a LGBT and Allies network; an Islamic network; a flexible working network; and Women in Norton Rose Fulbright (WiN), an inclusive network engaging both men and women in gender balance. The EarlyWiN chapter also provides tailored activities to our people who are in the early stages of their career.
- Raising awareness of the importance of an inclusive culture and unconscious bias is part of our training programmes and speaker events.
Perhaps most important though is how staff experience inclusion and our inclusive culture emerged as the second highest scoring category in our global staff survey last year.
Norton Rose Fulbright
Diverse organisations are more creative, more innovative and, ultimately, more successful. Ashurst has an instinctively inclusive culture but, like many professional service organisations, is acutely aware of the need to do more to address the lack of progress of under-represented groups, for example women.
Ashurst takes diversity and inclusion extremely seriously and our Board has adopted a new diversity strategy which sets gender targets for 2018. In London, our LGBT, Women’s and Multicultural networks hold regular events inside and outside the firm and raise awareness of the rich variety of backgrounds, faiths and cultures represented at the firm.
As we are extremely committed to and proud of this inclusive culture, it is therefore crucial that we integrate this into the graduate recruitment process. We receive applications from a vast number of universities across the UK, as well as international universities spanning the globe. We do not have a typical ‘list’ of universities that we look to recruit from and welcome applicants from any university. With our current trainee intake coming from 24 universities, the alumni links that we have are very strong and allow us to work with universities on a more personal level.
Crucially, we understand the importance of getting to know you as an individual and run events every month that are open to everyone – the Inside Ashurst Series. We encourage you to attend one of these events to experience the inclusive culture of Ashurst for yourself.
What are the benefits of having a diverse workforce?
Traditionally, law firms have been regarded as the domain of the select few, but modern firms have, for some time now, valued the benefits of a diverse workforce. A diverse workforce can benefit an employer in so many ways. It can create a firm that is able to think innovatively in respect of its own practices and service provision; it enables a firm to respond better to a client’s needs.
Through harnessing the rich mix of experiences and skills that employees have, firms can convert these into teams that are open to ideas, groups that offer different approaches to problems, and thus lead to a firm that is able to offer improved resolutions.
At TLT, we consult with our workforce on all aspects of their employment and consider lifestyle factors that are important to them. By fostering an environment of trust and respect, we strive to achieve the maximum contribution from the majority of people.
There is considerable research to suggest that businesses with a diverse workforce have increased productivity, creativity and also profitability. In a service industry we are nothing without our people and being able to create a fully diverse and inclusive culture where we value our people will ensure that we retain the very best people from the broadest pool which will, we believe, give us a competitive advantage. This is key to ensuring that we have a sustainable business and can achieve our vision and business ambition.
We also put clients at the heart of what we do and more and more they are telling us that they require diversity of thought in the solutions we offer, diversity in the teams we use and a stated commitment from us to ensure that diversity is embedded within our business. The majority of the tenders we see include questions around our diversity commitment and clients want to see that our aspirations in this area are aligned with their own. Engaging with diversity and inclusion on all levels therefore has a direct benefit to us in terms of maintaining our existing clients and helping us to deliver new clients within the business.
Womble Bond Dickinson