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Herbert Smith Freehills sets ethnicity goal for London NQ lawyers

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Proportion of minority rookies retained to ‘at least equal’ proportion of minority rookies in each intake, says firm

Herbert Smith Freehills’ London office

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has committed to improving diversity across its London rookie ranks as part of a new 10-point anti-racism action plan unveiled this week.

The firm pledged the proportion of minority ethnic trainees retained as newly qualified (NQ) lawyers will be at least the same as the proportion of minority ethnic trainees in each intake.

Legal Cheek‘s Firms Most List shows HSF dishes out around 60 training contacts each year. In June, however, it took the decision to delay the start dates of its incoming autumn trainees by six months in response to the pandemic, and in exchange for £8,000.

It is also aiming for 10% of its London partners to be minority ethic by 2025. At present, 6% of UK partners are BME.

The firm says the plan, dubbed ‘10 Actions for Change’, aims to strengthen its “ongoing commitment to inclusion, diversity and equality of opportunity”.

The 10 actions include: address barriers to the recruitment of black, first nations, asian and minority ethnic people; improve retention of black, first nations, asian and minority ethnic colleagues, and improve representation in more senior roles; deliver anti-racism workshops; and hold regional executives accountable for progress on ethnic diversity.

“Like others in the legal industry, we are not where we want to be, or where we should be, in our ethnic representation or our progress in dismantling systemic racism,” said HSF CEO Justin D’Agostino. “The tragic killing of George Floyd in May spurred us to redouble our existing work.”

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He continued:

“The firm’s leadership team and I are committed to supporting our black, first nations, asian and minority ethnic colleagues and building our understanding to create a safe, supportive and respectful environment across the firm. The 10 Actions provide a framework for all regions of the firm to shape to suit their local communities and issues.”

HSF isn’t the first big City player to renew its diversity pledge in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Allen & Overy aims to have 35% ethnic minority trainees, including 10% black trainees, each year, and is targeting a 15% ethnic minority partnership and 25% of the same for its lawyers and support staff by 2025. Clifford Chance also announced its own ethnicity targets earlier this summer, with the magic circle player aiming for 15% of new partners and 30% of senior associates to be from ethnic minority backgrounds by 2025.

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