Tag: inclusion

Russell-Cooke: Navigating the barriers: tips for aspiring BAME lawyers 17 March 2020

Russell-Cooke is hosting its first BAME legal conference which will be taking place in London. Paulette Mastin (chair of Black Solicitors Network (BSN)) and Stephanie Boyce (deputy vice president of the Law Society) will be sharing their personal experiences and advice on how to navigate the legal profession. Guest panellists will also be discussing the alternative paths to becoming a solicitor. Aspiring solicitors / attendees will have the chance to ask questions of the panel plus take away practical tips on how to nurture a successful career in the legal industry.

Tuesday 17 March 2020 – 7 Bedford Row, London, WC1R 4BS

Register your free place at this seminar.

 

LGBT+ Inclusion in Law with Travers Smith

Travers Smith and myGwork are delighted to invite you to a graduate networking event and panel discussion to explore LGBT+ Inclusion in Law.

This evening session is an opportunity for aspiring solicitors to listen to the experiences of LGBT+ leaders and role-models, and explore what more can be done to create fully inclusive workplaces where people can be their authentic selves, comfortable in their own identity.

The session will be followed by drinks and canapés where you will be able to meet members of our LGBT+ Group, straight ally colleagues as well as many current trainees.

Everyone is welcome!

To register, click here.

Burges Salmon BCultured

BCultured is Burges Salmon’s Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) network. Established in 2018, the group welcomes anybody within the firm who shares its objectives: to promote diversity, inclusivity and social mobility within the firm.

‘It’s not just for lawyers’, explains Ebony Ezekwesili, first-seat trainee solicitor and active BCultured member. ‘It’s open to people at all levels in the firm, from apprentices to trainees to business services people. You don’t have to be BAME either, anyone who supports our aims can join’.

BCultured was officially launched in April 2019. The launch event, titled ‘From Diversity to Inclusion’ attracted around 100 guests. At a recent headcount, the group counted 32 members, at least four of whom are trainees in Ebony’s intake.

New recruits are quickly made aware of Burges Salmon’s diversity networks, which also include BProud, Family Matters and the Burges Salmon Disability Forum. Once enrolled, new members can hit the ground running: ‘I heard about BCultured probably within my first two weeks at the firm and joined soon afterwards. In fact, I was at one of the network’s first official meetings following the commencement of my training contract in September’, explains Ebony.

BCultured is co-chaired by senior associate Marcus Walters and design team manager Tanya Allen. Burges Salmon’s Diversity & Inclusion (‘D&I’) Manager, Fiona Smith, also sits on the committee and, Tanya, Fiona and Marcus all sit on the firm’s D&I Group, which is chaired by Liz Dunn (People Partner), and is the liaison between the network and the firm’s senior management. One benefit of being a BCultured member is that Ebony has met and got to know colleagues she may not otherwise have come across. ‘I recently attended the Rise awards, a celebration of black entrepreneurs in Bristol, with members of BCultured and Liz (Dunn). Liz, as well as being ‘People Partner’, is also a partner in the planning department and I’m sitting in pensions, so I hadn’t interacted with her before. It definitely brings together people you wouldn’t ordinarily bump into within the firm’.

The network comprises several sub-committees. Ebony is primarily involved with the recruitment and progression committee, which meets every 4-6 weeks and focuses on attracting more BAME applicants to the firm and publicising BCultured and the firm’s wider diversity initiatives to prospective applicants.

To this end, BCultured has developed relationships with local schools in Bristol, in particular those with diverse student populations or which are located in disadvantaged areas. BCultured has also developed relationships with the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England (UWE), which enables BCultured to target BAME students. Ebony elaborates: ‘we want to make them more aware that there are people who look like them working at firms like ours. There tends to be a perception that they won’t fit in if they apply to places like Burges Salmon, but that’s not the case. We’re working hard to dispel the myth’.

In a bid to spread the word, Ebony and fellow BCultured members recently attended a careers event at UWE as part of Black History Month. There they met BAME students and professionals, many of whom were unaware of Burges Salmon’s BAME network. ‘One of the fears of BAME candidates is that they’ll be fighting against different pressures in the workplace. I was asked whether I feel entirely supported by the firm and my stance is always the same. I explain that the firm is very committed to D&I and that we even have a D&I Manager who is fully invested and involved in the aims and objectives of BCultured’.

During October BCultured hosted a number of events to celebrate Black History month within the firm and, in January, we will be hosting a Chinese New Year celebration. More generally, the committee will reflect on the network’s inaugural year, revelling in the successes whilst also building on what has been achieved so far. Increasing membership is also a priority.

Impressively, and despite its relatively recent inception, BCultured was shortlisted for the 2019 UK Diversity Legal Awards in the ‘Outstanding Multi-cultural/BAME Employee Network’ category. Closer to home, the group triumphed in the ‘Best Team Contribution’ category in Burges Salmon’s own Outstanding Service to Clients Awards (nicknamed the OSCAs). ‘It’s been a good year so far!’ chimes Ebony.

Whilst being black was Ebony’s primary motivation to join BCultured, her ethnicity was not a major concern when applying for training contracts. ‘I didn’t really consider being black that much in the context of the legal profession, but it is something which is intrinsic to me so whatever industry I work in, I will always try to join networks or groups which promote diversity. I feel 100% supported at Burges Salmon. I have no qualms with that whatsoever’.

Going forward, BCultured and Burges Salmon are looking at improving inclusion within the firm and within the legal profession more generally. ‘Many firms agree that diversity is important and have made it a priority. But the question is, once you’ve recruited [a diverse workforce], how do you retain it?’, asks Ebony. Retention of BAME lawyers and business services professionals past the junior level has historically been more of a challenge than initially attracting candidates. In order to overcome this, Ebony says employers need to celebrate employees’ identities and help them to feel comfortable being their full selves at work. ‘It’s the next stage in diversity recruitment – how do we move from diversity to promoting a culture of inclusion?’ Watch this space.

Applications for Burges Salmon’s spring and summer vacation schemes are open now. Apply by 10 January.

Latham & Watkins’ Global Affinity Groups

From parent lawyers to female lawyers to first-generation professionals, Latham & Watkins wants its lawyers and professional staff to feel supported and included, regardless of background or personal circumstances. The firm has created eight global affinity groups for lawyers, which, essentially, do what they say on the tin: allow colleagues who share an affinity in terms of a particular life experience (or are in support of those that do) to come together, have a forum to air their voices, and share strategies for professional success. 

The Lex 100 spoke with Jonathan Ritson-Candler, associate and co-head of Latham’s London LGBTQ Lawyers Group, and Chidi Onyeche, associate and co-head of the firm’s Black Lawyers Group in London, to learn more.

Open to all trainees and lawyers, the affinity groups are overseen by the firm’s Diversity Leadership Committee (DLC), comprised of partners, counsel, and associates from around the globe. The DLC spearheads Latham’s global diversity and inclusion strategy and initiatives, working to strengthen and promote the firm as a workplace where the best and brightest lawyers from all groups, including those traditionally underrepresented in the legal industry, excel and find the opportunities and support to fulfil their potential to become firm and industry leaders. Each affinity group has both global and local leaders, primarily associates. This leadership structure ensures that members can feel comfortable speaking up about any issues they may be facing. ‘The idea is that this isn’t just another iteration of partners overseeing what you do’, explains Jonathan.

Latham encourages broad participation in its affinity groups, all of which welcome allies. ‘I joined the Black Lawyers Group pretty much straight after joining the firm, and I’ve been very involved from the time I was a trainee’, says Chidi. In fact, potential trainees are even exposed to the affinity groups during the recruitment process. ‘I completed a vacation scheme in 2014, and Latham’s dedication to diversity, and in particular to black lawyers, was something that stuck out to me; it was one of the major factors why I chose to pursue a training contract here’.

Lateral-hire Jonathan joined the LGBTQ Lawyers Group in order to get to know his new firm: ‘I thought it would be a nice way to get more exposure to the firm, meet more people and get embedded a bit quicker. And that’s definitely been the case’.

Being an affinity group member has myriad benefits, one of which is exposure to Latham colleagues and firm leaders globally. ‘You automatically start building a network, so that even in a huge firm like Latham, you have an immediate route to getting to know people, meaning you don’t feel cut off from it all’, says Jonathan. ‘Incidentally, you’ll end up working with colleagues across the global network in any event, so it’s another great way to put a face to a name’. Chidi agrees. Every two years, the Black Lawyers Group invites its members to a global firm-sponsored retreat. There are engaging and inspiring discussions from firm leaders, affinity group members and allies. For example, this past September, the Black Lawyers Group retreat was held in Chicago, where attendees were able to visit the Obama Foundation to understand some of the great work that is happening there. Not only is it a perfect chance to catch up with colleagues and friends from around the globe, and meet new ones, group members also provide strategic input on how to best achieve the group’s overall aims of recruitment, retention and promotion of black talent across the firm’s network. Through this retreat, Chidi and other members of the Black Lawyers Group have been able to get to know firm leaders, forming invaluable connections. ‘There’s a certain sense of power (far above my paygrade!) which comes from speaking to them and getting to know them and them getting to know me’.

The local leaders of the LGBTQ Lawyers Group for each office get together on a global call once a quarter. ‘If someone’s in Hong Kong and another in Los Angeles, there’s never going to be a good time to have a call, but people are pretty good at turning up. It’s really gratifying to see the global commitment to diversity play out’, enthuses Jonathan. There are also quarterly catch-up calls for the various global sub-committees within the group, networking events where members are encouraged to bring their significant others and an all-affinity group lunch once a year.

There are plenty of opportunities to get together in the London office too. The Black Lawyers Group recently hosted a series of talks to coincide with Black History Month. ‘We had one talk about social media, which looked at members’ LinkedIn profiles and online presence. The idea was to ensure that clients who were considering coming to Latham would see that our lawyers’ online profiles were well thought-out’, explains Chidi. The next talk will be a financial planning session, something which has historically been a challenge for the black community. ‘The hope is to help members understand how best to utilise the wealth that we have, so that it can be preserved and also grow. We need to make sure that we start building generational wealth’.

Furthering its commitment to supporting the diverse needs of lawyers and staff, Latham recently rolled out significant benefits enhancements in the UK that make it easier to access more inclusive medical care and plan a family. These include financial support for transgender transitions and fertility treatment such as IVF, elective egg/sperm freezing, private maternity delivery services, and for surrogacy and adoption.

There’s no doubt that the success of Latham’s affinity groups can largely be attributed to the sheer amount of effort expended by their dedicated leaders and members. Organising events and activities, many of which involve international offices, requires unwavering commitment, which is no mean feat for City lawyers who are also juggling heavy client workloads. But there is always someone on hand to take over if an urgent matter crops up.

Impressively, the firm has also attributed bonus-eligible credits to diversity initiatives. ‘Not only is my team really supportive, but the firm more broadly is supportive because there are file codes to which you can record your time which are counted as part of your bonus calculation, as long as certain conditions are met’, elaborates Jonathan.

Stand-out moments

Black Lawyers Group 

The Black Lawyers Group’s global retreats have definitely been highlights for Chidi. ‘The first global retreat was in Washington, D.C.; I was a trainee at the time and was on secondment in Singapore. The firm paid for my flights from Singapore to London and then onto Washington, D.C. It was fantastic. Sometimes you can get really siloed within your department and within the firm, and then you realise that there’s actually something much bigger at work. In D.C. and, more recently at our retreat in Chicago, it was great to see so many amazing black lawyers and allies who support the whole mission in one place talking about how we can do better, be better and encourage diversity and inclusion in general.’

LGBTQ Lawyers Group 

For Jonathan, arranging a LGBTQ Lawyers Group event to coincide with London Pride really stands out. ‘We rented an event space on Piccadilly in London, which had a balcony and a view of the parade. It was a client event, and both clients and Latham employees could bring their children and partners. This was the second year we had hosted this event, and there were about 200 clients and 100 Latham employees – it was the most well-attended client event the firm in London had ever hosted. It’s definitely taken on a life of its own, with people asking us if we will be hosting it next year too. We hope to. In fact, we’re even talking about how to make it even better!’