– Angie Massebieau
The importance of diversity in the legal profession
Diversity and inclusion are both important within the legal profession and more importantly globally. Diversity creates a greater pool of talent which creates a wider pool of talent. This helps to ensure that organisations around the world can better understand the needs, concerns and motivations of their workforce, clients and customers.
Diversity and inclusion is particularly important in the legal profession as having a wider pool of talent means that firms, chambers and in-houses services alike can formulate new approaches and tactics; providing modern and innovative thinking. Moreover, it can help prevent discrimination by promoting fair and unprejudiced treatment of different people.
What are the current statistics?
In March 2020 the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) wrote on their collection of data from 2019 and found that the legal profession consists of 49% women, 21% BAME and 3% disabled. Although the statistics are showing signs of improved diversity and inclusion, it is evident that there is still a long way to go to achieve complete equality and diversity within the workspace.
One way in which law firms are currently tackling a lack of diversity is by setting targets. For example, Clifford Chance is one of many such firms who are looking to set industry standards by having 40% female partners globally by 2030 and 15% new partners being ethnically diverse by 2025. Similarly, Allen & Overy have set a 35% ethnic minority target for trainees.
How is diversity being encouraged in the legal profession?
Mentoring for Under-represented Groups
A number of magic circle commercial law chambers are actively encouraging diverse individuals to step in the legal industry. These chambers include Blackstone, Brick Court, Essex Court, Fountain Court, One Essex Court and 3 Verulam Buildings. They have decided to work together to support and encourage under-represented groups of students through a mentoring scheme. This includes women, BAME individuals, those who have spent time in care, individuals from the LGBTQ+ community, those with disabilities and people from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds.
The mentoring scheme is called “Mentoring for Under-represented Groups” and is running from November 2020 and June 2021 with the aim of supporting and encouraging aspiring barristers with a career at the Bar. The scheme includes five one-to-one meetings with a mentor, a workshop to aid in application processes and social events, most likely to be virtual due to COVID-19.
Aspiring solicitors provides coaching, mentoring, legal work experience, events, awards, scholarships and commercial awareness competitions. Their key focus is to help BAME individuals, social mobility and/or part of the LGBTQ+ community and/or have disabilities or long-term health conditions.
They currently have three long term goals which include: providing free access to opportunities and assistance to underrepresented groups; helping educate and inform those looking for a career in the legal profession about how important diversity is; and promoting diversity within the profession.
Aspiring Solicitors works with a variety of law firms including but not exclusive to Dentons; Freshfields; Hogan Lovells; BCLP; and Allen & Overy. Aspiring Solicitors also go beyond law firms with their partnerships and have recently provided opportunities with Sky; Barclays; American Express; Network Rail; and the Government Legal Profession.
Access to the different schemes provided by Aspiring Solicitors are highly sought after and it is easy to understand why when you hear the number of success stories. A key theme has been that the opportunities provided have been fundamental in people’s success in securing vacation schemes, internships and training contracts through open days, mock interviews and workshops amongst other services.
Bright Network helps provide students with career discovery and advice, internship and graduate job opportunities and networking opportunities. On top of this Bright Network has an online academy in which you can learn more about your current skills as well as developing them further in order to boost your employability. The initiatives provide an easy way for students of all backgrounds to access these opportunities for free.
The platform is designed to meet their key objective of helping all students from all backgrounds “make connections they need to fulfil their potential” in order to “get ahead in the world of work”. In order to achieve this Bright Network have partnered up with over 250 leading employers including, but not exclusive to Bloomberg; Clifford Chance; Goldman Sachs; and Morgan Stanley.
Testimonials from Bright Network members indicate that the platform has been highly successful in achieving their aim as students have benefitted from Bright Network events such as the Bright Network Festival and BAME Future Leaders. This has enabled them to secure vacation schemes at firms such as Clyde & CO and RPC; internships with companies like KPMG; and training contracts with law firms such as Baker McKenzie and Kennedys.
Students can find a lot of law firm related news on Legal Cheek’s website which can help students stay commercially aware for free. On top of this they provide career advice as well as a journal which accepts journal entries from students that meet the necessary requirements. During the summer they also hosted a virtual vacation scheme which was open to everyone due to the cancellation of a number of firm vacation schemes (following the pandemic).
Look out for “The Legal Cheek Singapore Virtual Law Fair 2020 (November)” on 17/11/2020.
There are so many more events being held by Legal Cheek and that’s just some of the ways that Legal Cheek helps aspiring lawyers to not only gain exposure to law firms but also enabling them to network with like-minded peers, trainee solicitors and even partners. As the events are international, online and free to enter, it promotes diversity as it enables those from underrepresented groups to gain first-hand experiences at no cost.