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Magic and silver circle law firms sign commitment to ensure BAME junior lawyers get same career opportunities as white counterparts

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Elite firms join over 30 legal recruiters in new diversity pledge

A group of magic and silver circle law firms have joined a host of recruiters in a pledge to provide equal access to job opportunities within the legal profession.

The Recruitment Agency Race Fairness Commitment, developed by diversity recruitment specialist Rare, aims to ensure that black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) job seekers secure the same opportunities to compete for legal roles as their similarly qualified white counterparts.

The founding law firm signatories are Ashurst, Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills, Slaughter and May, and Travers Smith. The fivesome join over 30 legal recruitment outfits including Taylor Root, Hydrogen, Michael Page and RedLaw, as well as agencies covering other business and financial sectors.

The group commit to a range of measures. These include ensuring that their candidate pools at least match the UK ethnic diversity and aspire to the local population if greater; taking the time to explore contextual backgrounds and experiences of black and ethnic minority candidates to better represent diverse candidates to organisations; and demanding hard, factual feedback on any ethnic minority candidates not hired.

On the final point, the measures add “didn’t fit” and “something is not quite right” are not acceptable reasons for not hiring a candidate and “are often code for bias”.

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The commitment follows the news earlier this summer that 17 City law firms, including the five to sign up to this latest initiative, had committed to using “data-driven techniques” to improve the recruitment and retention rates of BAME lawyers.

Raphael Mokades, founder and managing director of Rare, commented:

“We’ve had an incredible response to our Race Fairness Commitment and it’s encouraging to see that firms want to go even further in the effort to increase black and ethnic minority representation in their ranks. While October was officially Black History Month, increasing diversity needs to be a focus year-round. Rare is proud to work with these five founding law firms — clients we already support with lateral recruitment and retention — to launch this call to action.”

There have been increasing calls for City law firms to up their efforts when it comes to diversity, particularly following the death of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

In June, the Black Solicitors Network, a group representing black solicitors across England and Wales, penned an open letter urging law firm leaders to “walk the talk” on diversity and “turn positive intentions into positive action”.

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29 Comments

The People's Champ

“BAME” people don’t need more opportunities in law.

Black, and working-class white people do (especially males).

To make any sort of positive change in regards to diversity, we need to target our efforts at individual groups rather than shoehorning everyone into the same category!

(48)(9)

You’re right

Actually yes. Lumping all ethnic minorities together is a mirage. Firms and businesses can hide behind the Asian or other ethnicities who may have just as many opportunities or “privilege” as white members of society. Not a blanket statement but just agree BAME as an umbrella term is unhelpful and not an appropriate way to fix what they set out to achieve.

(27)(2)

a british indian

It’s true there are overlooked differences within ‘BAME’. Just taking south asians, british indians are much better represented than british bangladeshis or pakistanis. I’m sure there are similar differences within the other wide ethnicity groupings. It’s such lazy thinking, the diversity issue is much more complex than just ‘non-white’ and ‘white’.

(21)(3)

Riddle me this

And why is that? Are British Bangladeshis or Pakistanis experiencing more systematic obstacles to their success than their British Indian counterparts, even though your average Brit probably couldn’t tell them apart even if they had each country’s flag printed on their forehead?

Or could it be that, behind all the talk of discrimination and privilege, really it’s the work ethic and familial / cultural value placed on education that leads to success?

(6)(1)

Wokey McBlokeface

Don’t upset the apple cart.

(2)(2)

It's hip to be woke

White middle class men with a wife and two children are so bad.

Senior Associate

The measures proposed will achieve nothing, but what can firms actually do? Back purchase a boarding school education? Magic up a uni hockey team BAME associates can network with? Subsidise BAME staff’s membership of the Garrick?

The career opportunities available to primarily, though not exclusively, white upper middle class associates are not internal to the firm, but external.

A mate of mine got the partnership nod this year. The key client he brought in was a guy he met on his brother in law’s stag do, who he discovered was best mates with someone my mate had played rugby with at uni. Firms cannot do anything about this, it’s just how society works.

(28)(1)

I want rich friends.

Society is a bad place.

(7)(2)

Realist

That’s why it makes sense all other things being equal to prefer those from capital owning backgrounds, and failing that those with plenty of opportunity to mingle with those with capital ie the better public schools, Oxbridge etc. They are just more likely to bring in clients that matter and behave in a concordant manner with those clients. Turning firms into a CBeebies presenter line up of diversity is a lovely idea, but lovely ideas do not pay school fees.

(14)(22)

Keith

Target people who went to crappy schools and you’ll solve the problem of underrepresentation of certain groups. If you employ a black man or asian woman who went to Eton, it looks good for statistics, but how have you advanced social justice?

(30)(1)

Charles

Just employ people called Keith and Hannah and you’ll be more diverse automatically.

(10)(2)

Anon

Or people who think there is a room called a “toilet”.

(5)(3)

Charles

That’s the point: people called Keith and Hannah think there is a room called a “toilet”.

(6)(1)

Xerxes

But there are so many more than just the Keiths and Hannahs. Think of the Ryans. Think of the Lisas.

Charles

You are right, Xerxes. There are plenty of lower class names other than Keith and Hannah. Ryan and Lisa, for sure. Kevin, Shaun, Elliot, too.

S

“The group commit to a range of measures. These include ensuring that their candidate pools at least match the UK ethnic diversity and aspire to the local population if greater”

This seems to be aiming to focus recruitment on London. So much for recruiting the best from across the UK and ensuring all are given the same opportunities….

(6)(0)

Not a meritocracy

Elitism is just affirmative action for privilege.

(4)(4)

privileged boi

must suck to be that mediocre huh

(1)(3)

Anonymous

We made up a partner last year that did not have a family vintner. Salaried, though, but still it was a leap into the unknown.

(2)(0)

Jarrod

This is a step in the right direction.

(7)(9)

Mixed race lawyer

I’m not saying that any of the above comments are right or wrong, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I, for one, agree that the use of the term ‘BAME’ can often be counterproductive. But I agree that this initiative surely cannot be viewed by any reasonable person as anything other than a step in the right direction. The key here is that the Commitment seems to be working towards the goal of equality of opportunity for all, regardless of ethnicity, and that is most definitely a good thing.

(8)(4)

Jarrod

I agree. Those who think otherwise are either ignorant or racist.

(2)(9)

Me

I disagree as on its face this initiative will crucify white working class applicants, the sacrificial lambs to the woke appeasement process. That does not make me ignorant or racist. To the contrary Jarrod’s constant support for regimes that promote recruitment of BAME candidates well above the representative national rate is the very essence of racism

(7)(4)

Mixed race lawyer

Parity does not mean the promotion of Black nor other ethnic minority candidates beyond anyone, irrespective of their colour or socio-economic background. We are talking about equality here, plain and simple, and there is not a one-size-fits-all approach that I know of. That said, I do not try to deny there’s a skewing towards White, middle-class and upper class people when it comes to entrants into the profession – we know it exists, and this also needs tackling. But that doesn’t detract from the positive impact something like this will have; in fact, it serves to highlight the fact that firms should be doing more to devise and deploy initiatives which cut across a greater number of under-represented areas within our society.

(1)(1)

William

Wasn’t all this crap meant to be spewed out in October? October felt like it went on forever this year. Please please make the nonsense stop.

(4)(5)

Single white female

If equality issues were taken more seriously all year round, and there was no bias in the legal profession, we might not need a whole month of Black History celebrations, nor even a day. I would hazard a guess you’re not someone who’s been negatively impacted by inequality and ,irrespective of that, would strongly suggest an attitude adjustment if you have any desire to progress your career in legal or any other field – the tide is turning, and your prehistoric attitude will leave you behind, exactly where your views belong – in the past.

(1)(0)

Truth hurts

I’m considered ‘BAME’ but am certainly not underprivileged. If firms want to actually make a difference in terms of diversity, they should be targetting class and not race.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

Class based programmes would address 90% of the ethnicity disparity too. But they don’t look as catchy on social media feeds.

(1)(0)

trainee

This!
Many of the “BAME” people one may meet at firms are people who have privileged backgrounds, went to excellent universities, aren’t the first generation to go to university, are not low-income. Clearly, culture plays a part in this and firms don’t recognise it. The real focus ought to be on a more targeted approach that looks at class/ethnicity barriers- it’s all well and good saying you want to hire 25% BAME and though you may achieve the representation on an ethnic level, you’re unlikely to have achieved much else by way of educational or class diversity.

(4)(0)

Comments are closed.

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