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17 City law firms pledge to ‘identify and attack’ career obstacles facing BAME lawyers

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New ‘data-driven’ approach

A large cluster of City law firms have announced today that they will use data analysis to improve the recruitment and retention rates of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) lawyers.

As part of the Race Fairness Commitment (RFC), an initiative launched by London-based diversity specialist Rare Recruitment, “data-driven techniques” will analyse and monitor the legal careers of BAME lawyers — from recruitment to senior promotion. Using this data, law firms can then “identify and attack the points at which BAME lawyers are unfairly falling behind their peers”.

Data analysed will look at the differences between BAME and white groups in application to interview rates; interview to offer rates; pay; and promotion rates. According to Rare Recruitment, the data analysis looks at ‘BAME’ collectively, but also provides a separate breakdown for two categories: black and other ethnic minorities.

The RFC has been signed by 17 City law firms, including all members of the magic circle — Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields, Linklaters and Slaughter and May. Also joining the diversity initiative are Ashurst, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, DWF, Dentons, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Macfarlanes, Norton Rose Fulbright, Pinsent Masons, RPC, Travers Smith and White & Case.

These firms have also committed to taking steps to create a more inclusive workplace, where BAME lawyers can be themselves, “without feeling the need to be inauthentic in terms of their speech or culture, simply in order to ‘fit in'”. According to research conducted by Rare, BAME lawyers spend on average 20% less time at firms than their white co-workers before leaving.

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Measures include asking staff at least once a year whether they ‘can be themselves at work’, and ensuring racism is discussed in every induction and exit interview. Meanwhile, junior ethnic minority lawyers will have access to senior management, with a view where possible to creating sponsorship, mentoring and reverse mentoring programmes.

Roy Appiah, senior associate at Clifford Chance and Rare alumnus, said:

“Clifford Chance is undoubtedly a great place to work and I am very fortunate and privileged to do so. However, as a Black or ethnic minority lawyer, you are never too far away from reminders that the firm, and the industry, were not designed for people like you to rise to the top. These reminders come in many forms, like having your security pass checked twice to enter work, or being invited to training about what leadership looks like where none of the dozen speakers look like you.”

According to Ngozie Azu, head of international relations at Slaughter and May and Rare alumnus, the initiative will encourage law firms to take a more personal approach to diversity.

“How does it actually feel to be Black in a firm like this? There will always be areas of differences — for example my unusual name, my hair and how I spend my leisure time,” said Azu. “The challenge for firms is to ensure that they are creating an environment in which everyone can bring their most authentic selves to work without fear that our differences will mark us out or impact our ability to succeed.”

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26 Comments

Anonymous

Expect the working class white men (and to some extent women) to be screwed over by this process. The vast majority of alleged race discrimination is attributable to socioeconomic discrimination but this sort of data process will allocate much of this to race and the effect will be shift more of the discrimination onto the rest of those coming from working class backgrounds. Still, the SJWs will be happy, the marketing/PR teams will be happy and that is all that matters nowadays.

(79)(59)

workers of the world, unite!

I hear your point but I would say not necessarily. This is also to monitor the career progression of BME lawyers. Socioeconomic issues are more relevant to consider when looking at how many people from those backgrounds even become lawyers. But race becomes more of an issue for career progression, I would say. Even when wealthy, privileged brown and black people do enter the profession, there’s still a huge disparity in the number of BME partners (8/800 partners at MC firms are black).

(45)(10)

illiterate peasant, PhD

and black people constitute 3% of the UK, and about 1% in 1990, when many partners today would have been entering a legal career. Taking underrepresentation as evidence of discrimination at the top level of advancement is an inherently flawed metric for overall discrimination, regardless of which way you stand on the overarching issue; you’re taking a snapshot of the profession twenty or thirty years ago and comparing them to today’s demographics.

I imagine statistics on the composition of trainee intakes in aggregate across City law firms would be very counter-narrative to articles like the one that has been posted above. It’s one of the easiest things to find out/calculate, and yet it hasn’t been included in an article about racism in recruitment – I wonder if that’s because BAME candidates have possibly become overrepresented in trainee intakes due to the number of diversity initiatives/contextual recruitment (like RARE) that’s been going on over the last five years or so.

(43)(20)

Use relevant stats

When looking at City firms and the opportunities they present you might want to consider the most relevant locations. London, where City firms are based, was 44% BAME back in 2015, so to have such low levels in support staff and lawyers alike is NOT good.

(20)(14)

illiterate peasant, PhD

Why is that relevant at all? City law firms recruit from people from all around the country, largely because they preferentially recruit from a handful of good universities. The demographics of London rather than the country as a whole would only be relevant if the recruitment process involved randomly pulling people in off the street to interview them for a TC, which, of course, they don’t do.

Jarrod

The recruitment pool is wider than just the UK. Nonetheless, the % of white fee earners at law firms (certainly large/city firms) will be greater than the % of white population in the UK.

The difficulty is that the best universities themselves tend to recruit from good schools that the privileged children are likely to attend. There are fewer opportunities for minorities to get in to those universities in the first place. Some simply do not have that route – there are not enough scholarships and other schemes available to redress the imbalance that has arisen out of years of social injustice.

Where do we end up? There are a lot of naturally talented people out there from different minorities that could excel in the job, but they don’t have X university or the Duke of Edinburgh award on their CV. That probably means they aren’t as polished or an “oven ready” trainee – but need they be? I think you need to look at the longer term potential and I think this is really what the initiative is getting at – looking past the surface and getting quality talent that will excel in the profession for years to come.

@4:14

Totally irrelevant point. Do firms just hire people from London? What a mug

Lilly

Very well said Jarrod

Anonymous

@illiterate

Perfectly put. It’s almost worse that firms give out extra TC offers to BAME candidates purely to satisfy a quota because then is then a risk that they won’t be kept on as NQ’s because they may not have been the most suitable candidate after all.

Coming from a low Socioeconomic background, havig working class hobbies, and not speaking ‘well’ (not RP) (including all ethnicities) is the biggest issue of prejudice in city law.

Sick of this posturing.

(20)(10)

Archibald Pomp O'City

You don’t have to come from a low socioeconomic background to produce commentary that’s ridden with typos and grammatical errors, but it sure doesn’t help things if you do.

black woman in law

“It’s almost worse that firms give out extra TC offers to BAME candidates purely to satisfy a quota because then is then a risk that they won’t be kept on as NQ’s because they may not have been the most suitable candidate after all.”

This is a complete falsehood when it comes to diversity – that firms are throwing out TCs to black candidates who aren’t good enough. That just doesn’t happen, and quite frankly its offensive to black candidates. Excluding any sort of socioeconomic factor Black candidates who meet the criteria just aren’t offered. Organisations such as Rare prove this as they operate a business model which only accepts BAME candidates who meet all academic requirements (as oppose to Aspiring Solicitors who accept candidates with mitigating circumstances). Legal cheek commentators when it comes to diversity consistently minimise the effect unconscious bias has on recruitment in firms. If my majority white male partnership are recruiting trainees at partner interview who are a cultural “fit” for the firm, they are of course going to gravitate to candidates who are most similar to them. As humans we all instinctively gravitate to people most like us.
Please name a city firm where these firms are apparently throwing TCs out to BAME candidates? Because as a black woman in law, the numbers are very scarce. I’m only one of 2 black women at my US firm and there are only 6 black people in total. All Associate level and below.

Anonymous

@workers of the world, unite!

This isn’t true – there are barriers to career progression for working class people even once they enter the profession, too. Take a look at a book called The Class Ceiling.

(2)(0)

workers of the world

I didn’t say there wouldn’t be barriers. There inevitably will be – less support, less ‘important’ contacts etc. I’m just saying race seems to be more relevant later on, in comparison to when looking at earlier stages of their career.

FYI, I agree socioeconomic issues are important, if not the most, factors in determining someone becoming a lawyer, not race. I’m a minority woman who grew up poor so I’ve seen the disparity between people from my background and other more successful, despite having the same skin colour. I’ve also seen the latter group using the ‘race card’ to their benefit without realising they’re already infinitely in a better position than so many others.

But thanks for the book recommendation – will deffo check it out! 🙂

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Interesting to see we have signed. In my experience, we make BAME trainees work twice as hard as everyone else. Then at qualification time we can focus on binning any BAME person who failed to “fit in” with our rich white boy culture, no questions asked.

(35)(33)

RPC Fan

Great to see RPC on the list. That alongside the trainee retention rate news has really brightened my week. What a fantastic firm.

(8)(16)

Anonymous

“Meanwhile, junior ethnic minority lawyers will have access to senior management, with a view where possible to creating sponsorship, mentoring and reverse mentoring programmes.”

Does this strike anyone else as blatantly unfair?

(25)(9)

Anonymous

Cancel 5:19pm. Cancel him! (To be read in the voice of a dalek.)

(13)(4)

Anon

To redress the balance you need to be bold and try new things, and in fairness this scheme seems to be trying to do that. Will everything be 100% fair? No. Will Rare make a packet out of it? They surely will. But better to do something than nothing. I’m also encouraged by the fact that they are showing some indication of trying to move away from the ridiculous catch-all ‘BAME’ term and acknowledging (or seeming to acknowledge) that the real problem, from an ethnic diversity perspective, is lack of black lawyers.

(12)(7)

Anonymous

I’m not sure how that justifies offering certain people material advantages merely because of the colour of their skin.

(20)(1)

Anonymous

What “balance” needs to be redressed? That is the starting point. The data show any “imbalance” is mainly along socioeconomic not racial lines. Sorting the former addresses almost all of the latter. Wrong set of priorities on show here.

(5)(2)

Fred

Equality feels like oppression (or in your case- unfair) to the privileged

(6)(2)

Archibald Pomp O'City

Ah, the gammons swing into desperate, florid-faced action. Let’s hope they don’t use the term “blacks” this time.

(10)(16)

Anonymous

Thank you for your racist slur. You have made an invaluable contribution to this discussion.

(10)(4)

2 thoughts

It’s quite simple. If you don’t understand there are a lot of resources online or books you can buy on why they are making initiatives such as these. It’s about equality and putting ethnic minorities, particularly black people who have not been put on level playing field for years to progress by making concrete steps to do so. It’s funny that people say it’s due to socioeconomic issues. Race and socioeconomic issues are not mutually exclusive. It can be both.

(9)(1)

Anonymous

“Race and socioeconomic issues are not mutually exclusive. It can be both.” You miss the point. The most effective way to deal with most of the race issues is to address socioeconomic issues, because these account for almost all the race based disparity. These firms are looking at the wrong target for the wrong reasons, and will harm those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who are not in the qualifying race groups.

(0)(3)

My thoughts

It’s quite simple. If you don’t understand there are a lot of resources online or books you can buy on why they are making initiatives such as these. It’s about equality and putting ethnic minorities, particularly black people who have not been put on level playing field for years to progress by making concrete steps to do so. It’s funny that people say it’s due to socioeconomic issues. Race and socioeconomic issues are not mutually exclusive. It can be both.

(6)(2)

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