Diversity in Law event: some things that we learnt and some unanswered questions…

Diversity in Law event: some things that we learnt and some unanswered questions…

After all the excitement of the build-up, the day of the Diversity in Law event finally dawned on 28 April! We were privileged to co-host the event with our friends at 2to3 days in support of the Next 100 Years Campaign.

Our six fantastic panellists, all industry leaders from the world of law and recruitment, shared their ideas and observations on attracting, coaching and retaining female and other diverse talent in the legal sector.

We were delighted that TV Presenter Angellica Bell joined us to host this lively discussion about how to change the culture in law and stop the brain drain of women (and others) from the law.

The evening ended with questions from the floor and some insightful contributions from the audience.

For those who couldn’t join us, here are some of the highlights from the debate on the night – we guarantee they will give you food for thought!

Why is diversity and inclusion so important in business?

Dr Manjari Prashar outlined three reasons:

  1. It’s demanded. By stakeholders such as clients, employees, candidates. There is currently great scrutiny of organisations and leaders on D&I issues, the world is looking at this and it’s not really a choice anymore, businesses must pay attention to it.
  2. It’s required. To ensure the retention and progression of the best talent, businesses need to look through a D&I lens. The attrition rate of black lawyers, at every stage of their careers is shockingly high. It is estimated that black lawyers are 4 times more likely to leave the profession than any other ethnicity. While over 50% of entrants to the legal profession in the UK are female, only around 30% of partners are women (and this varies greatly by size of firm).
  3. It’s impactful. Research shows that inclusion really makes a difference and inclusive leaders can create a better workplace for all. There is improved team performance, better decision making, teams are more likely to arrive at accurate solutions, there is greater innovation, fairer progression and more retention.

What are law firms doing to change the culture, particularly around flexible working?

The need to service clients effectively has often been cited as a reason to deny flexibility but, with the greater awareness of D&I issues across the board, Bola Gibson from Osborne Clarke felt the demand to find solutions is there from clients now and this is helpful in driving greater collaboration.

Bola also emphasised that education was a huge part of changing culture. She felt there was a lot of ignorance around the realities of being a woman in law and that firms needed to help people understand that we don’t live in a pure meritocracy – lawyers don’t all start from the same level; the current culture in many law firms favours particular groups and can disadvantage others.

Finally, there is much work being done to support individual lawyers through coaching, mentoring and training, role models and leadership are crucial.

What three things should employers do to find diverse talent?

Jo Major stressed how important it was for a firm to talk about what it offered on flexible working and other terms such as family friendly policies. She said, get the information out there for people to see, shout about it as much as possible so that you become a destination employer for the widest range of candidates.

It was crucial that this information was filtering through to recruitment partners and recruitment materials. Jo recommended scrutiny of recruitment partners, by asking them to explain and evidence how they implement D&I in their practice and to also keep an eye on the recruiters themselves – do they come from diverse backgrounds?

Remember that a job advert is essentially a piece of marketing, make your firm sound like a place where people want to work and don’t draft the advert so that it is so long and dense it puts potential candidates off!

Finally…

They say time flies when you are having fun, and sadly, time was against us on the night, so there were some questions we didn’t have a chance to consider in depth, such as: what role can men play in making change happen, how can we mitigate the motherhood pay penalty and, what does the future look like for women in law?

We hope to have the chance to explore the issues again, figuring out how we stop the brain drain is crucial to the future of our industry!