Allen & Overy sets 35% ethnic minority target for trainees

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Magic circle firm also wants to retain more black NQs as part of wider diversity push

Allen & Overy’s London office

Allen & Overy (A&O) has today announced a series of diversity targets for its London office.

The magic circle firm aims to have 35% ethnic minority trainees, including 10% black trainees, each year. It also wants to equalise retention rates for trainees, with particular focus on retaining more black associates. The current trainee ethnic minority make-up is 31%.

A&O is also targeting a 15% ethnic minority partnership and 25% of the same for its lawyers and support staff by 2025. These are, respectively, 9%, 22% and 16% at present.

A&O is understood to have become the first major firm to reveal its ethnicity ‘stay gap’ — the duration ethnic lawyers stay at the firm compared to their white colleagues.

The analysis, which looks at differences in the average tenure of employees who have left the firm in the last five years, found that black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) lawyers leave the firm seven months earlier than their white colleagues. Meanwhile, black lawyers leave two years and five months earlier than their white counterparts.

The firm has committed to publishing its updated ethnicity stay gap every year.

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A&O’s UK diversity and inclusion partner, Ian Field, said:

“We must all play our part in creating a truly inclusive workplace and for us that starts with accountability. The stay gap figure is an uncomfortable truth for us and the legal industry but it gives us an objective way to measure the success of our efforts in this area. We want to be clear that we recognise the problems within our own firm and are committed to tackling them head on.”

Earlier this month fellow magic circler Clifford Chance (CC) introduced its first-ever ethnic minority targets, among others. By 2025 CC wants 15% of partners and 30% of senior associates to be from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Also this month 17 City firms pledged to “identify and attack” career obstacles facing ethnic minority lawyers and why they fall behind their peers with a new “data-driven” approach.

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Isn’t the 35% target very materially higher than the proportion of the UK population that is “ethnic minority”? That being, at most, about 15-20% according to 2011 Census data (and noting this data is now quite old).

Generally these sorts of targets have been premised on the (wrong) idea that the proportion of people with a certain attribute in a particular position etc. should perfectly match the proportion of the people with that attribute in the population as a whole.



…and the above quotas highlight where positive discrimination again non-BAME candidates begins.


Fellow White Male

Can’t wait for people to claim this discriminates against white males. If you don’t like it, don’t apply to A&O – very simple. Not like you’re getting a TC anyway



It obviously discriminates against working class white males. 3% black population in the UK. 16% ethnic minorities. Do you sums and remember the privileged white boys never, ever lose out.


Not that difficult

So blame firms for recruiting privileged white boys, dummy


Fellow White Male

Recruiting privileged white boys in large numbers is what discriminates against white working class boys. The sooner you can figure that one out, the sooner you stop blaming minorities for your problems.


AGREE 100%


Also worth noting that leading international firms don’t just take on British trainees, so using British population stats to argue against them doing this doesn’t make sense.

If you are fixated on the London office and British population though you should consider that the BAME population in London, where the firm is based, is higher than 35%.


numbers don't add up

but London firms don’t recruit from London, they recruit from the UK as a whole (and in some cases, but to a limited extent, the wider world).


Ending socioeconomic discrimination would address 90% of the so called discrimination based on ethnicity, most of which is in fact socioeconomic discrimination.



The problem is that the underlying systemic inequalities and prejudices remain, covered by an artificial facade of equality.

Agreed that it’s a step in the right direction, but ultimately it’s just a superficial solution for a much deeper problem.


MC Associate

It’s an interesting one – the targets seem reasonable based on the ethnic make-up of London, but seem high in terms of the ethnic make-up of the UK as a whole. Quite an interesting discussion about who a London law firm sees as their catchment.

The worry is that, without a properly inter-sectional analysis, you will have a situation where an expensively educated BAME candidate from a top university in Hong Kong, Singapore or India (hardly an “outside the box” recruitment for a magic circle law firm) is seen as equivalent to a black candidate from somewhere like Lewisham or a student from a Bangladeshi-heritage family in Bradford, or even “better” than a working class white candidate from Rochdale. Which isn’t really doing much to meaningfully address structural differences in access.

On a positive, the focus on retention is very important, and hopefully indicates firms are addressing these issues in a more sophisticated way than simple box ticking at the HR/recruitment level.


Showround @ Bakers

The most reasoned response here and glad it was posted early before things get toxic as they normally do.



It’s normally you making things “toxic”, but keep shifting the blame if it helps you sleep at night


Showround @ Bakers

Shut up, simp. Is that toxic enough for you?



Thanks for proving my point.


Yes. And what about working class white people? Shane and Hannah who went to the local comp?



Since when were Shane and Hannah examples of typical white working class names?!



The firm I work for has informally been doing something similar for some time in response to the (very real) diversity problem they have of the firm being swamped with middle class white public school kids. The problem is by purely focusing on race and not social background, we now simply have lots of middle class ethnic minority public school kids roaming the halls. This isn’t genuine diversity – on a socio economic level it’s just as bad as it ever was.

The most underrepresented groups amongst trainee intakes are working class kids – be they white, black, Asian or any other heritage group. Heaven forbid being working class with a regional accent…



I mean I don’t think it’s quite as simple as law firms being swamped with privately educated minorities but I think this does raise the issue that the least represented groups in city law firms is undoubtedly low-income backgrounds regardless of race (and a background that is statistically a far more accurate predictor for life outcomes than any measure of ethnicity/gender/sexuality). However, I think we all do know those bme candidates being supported by the diversity recruitment platforms which shall remain nameless who were educated at highly expensive London private schools which seems to run contrary to the idea of diversity recruiting


Wigan Pier

On the same note (and call me out if I am way off), but don’t BAME students in London regardless of background have better opportunities than BAME students from elsewhere just by virtue of geography? A&O’s idea sounds great, but hopefully it benefits talented BAME students from outside of London too.



When I had a TC interview at slaughter and May I was told the interviewers were not to take into account background and where you went to school etc. I think this was probably the worst firm I ever interviewed at. Give them 2 months and they’ll come out with a BAME strategy and jump on the bandwagon but it’s really questionable whether these firms actually want to promote diversity or if their hands are being forced to do so. Background is so important and firms such a slaughters didn’t want to know where I came from and the community I live in (extremely working class and heavy regional accent). Before I went for an interview I met an Asian candidate who immediately told me she had been training for the olympics and was oxbridge educated. Let’s just say I agree with comments on here that the real losers are working class white people as there’s never been anything at all to assist diversity in this respect. I’m very glad to see that MC firms are recruiting more BAME but it’s infuriating that just because I’m working class and white I didn’t receive any additional advice or support.



It’s funny you say that because I had the exact same experience at a Vac Scheme interview with Sl*ughter and M*y. The partner and associate who interviewed me were very rude and kept interrogating me on why I had bad GCSE grades even though I ticked the boxes on the application for the contextual recruitment and explained my situation in the extenuating circumstances section. I come from a very poor background and rubbish disruptive state school.

It’s bad enough that a lot of poor candidates have to go through bad experiences due to their low social economic circumstances but to then be rigorously questioned on it in an interview is utterly ridiculous and quite frankly dehumanising



Sorry but that is an entirely unfair description of Slaughter and May. You’ve got to understand that firms want lawyers who the clients are going to warm to. If you wouldn’t be able to make small talk with a FTSE 100 board member you’re going to struggle.



Oh piss off Jonathan.



S and M is hands down the worst firm across the city. The culture at the firm is terrible. Very hierarchical so nepotism and worshiping the partners is how you work your way up there. The route to partner isn’t very clear because mainly the Oxbridge middle class white candidates are made partner at SandM. It’s a miserable place to be in all honestly and the office politics that go on there is ridiculous.

Glad I got out when I did and you probably had a lucky escape



Jonathan is gonna spam dislike this loooool just wait and see.

I fully agree with everything you have said though.



Nobody is “spam disliking” anything. What people, including myself, take umbrage with is malicious falsehoods being peddled about the firm. In my experience it is one of the most inclusive, welcoming, accepting and friendly firms on the planet.



Piss off Jonathan


You spammed the likes/dislikes on every single comment against slaughters in the recent article comments section. Why you’re cheerleading for the firm so hard is beyond me but I hope you find a hobby and get a life bro


He’s just slammed the likes and dislikes again hahahahaha


Unrelated but does anyone know a good place to discuss what TC option to pick if you’re unsure about 2 offers? I really can’t decide!



What firms?



DLA Piper and Ashurst



CMS and DLA Piper



Greenberg and Sidley Austin


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