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Event summary: Diversity and Inclusion in the Legal Profession

The second edition of Diversity and Inclusion in the Legal Profession, edited by Globe Law and Business and the Centre for Legal Leadership, is out now!

Now comprising nine (up from five) chapters written by people with direct or close experience of their subject, this new publication illuminates many facets of the complex matrix that is diversity and inclusion (D&I).

In June, in-house lawyers from a wide range of organisations joined us at our launch reception for the book. Many of the authors also came along to speak about the insights behind their chapters.

Introducing the speakers was Simon Laird, Global Head of Insurance at RPC. A member of the firm’s board, Simon also heads up D&I at RPC. He discussed how, with so many perspectives and viewpoints to D&I, making the right decisions is not always as easy as people may think.

His advice to leaders looking to create a diverse workplace is to “… get comfortable with not knowing everything. Jump straight in and improve your learning as you go.”

Catherine McGregor, Catherine McGregor Research

Chapter: Women in the Law 

Catherine spoke about the key foundational factors that underpin a big picture vision and progress towards a diverse workforce. Chief among these are:

  • Equality – starting with recruitment and continuing through a person’s whole tenure;
  • Equity – giving people opportunities and projects appropriate to their skills and experience;
  • Accountability – or as the quote attributed to management guru, Peter Drucker, goes, ‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’;
  • Creativity – just because something worked in past, it doesn’t mean it will forever. Think innovation, think diversity of opportunity; and 
  • Tactical execution – making sure that steps towards diversity are taken. This may mean tackling structural factors that hamper your progress. 

Muhammad Gangat, Hogan Lovells

Chapter: Social mobility in law – where’s the equity and justice?

‘Where you’re from shouldn’t limit where you can go’ was Muhammad’s central message to the reception attendees. 
And to this end, he says, education is the great equaliser. A great education makes it possible for kids to out-earn their parents. 
Neither poverty nor social mobility discriminate. People do. Which is perhaps why it’s tempting to cocoon oneself in an echo chamber and surround yourself with people who look and speak like you. Far more powerful, says Muhammad, is when ‘… someone who doesn’t look like me makes me feel welcome.’  
This is where employers can really take a lead. Making people from all backgrounds feel welcome, valued and supported is a great driver of social mobility.

Jodiann Gayle, Legalnable

Chapter: “Hidden and in the profession”: disability in the workplace

Some disabilities are invisible. And for many people, including those in the legal profession, this raises a tricky question: would you disclose that you have a disability?
Statistically, 5% of lawyers are disabled, compared to 14% of people across the wider workforce. Are lawyers uncomfortable about revealing a disability?
Forms of autism, anxiety, dyslexia and many more are invisible disabilities. And even visible disabilities create challenges that are unseen in a busy workplace.
Jodiann founded Legalnable, a support group for disabled people in the legal profession. As well as her powerful chapter, she contributed a moving poem, ‘Hidden’ to this edition of Diversity and Inclusion in the Legal Profession.

Semrin Wadwa representing Gian Power, TLC Lions

Chapter: Race and ethnicity: everyone has a story

In 2015, Gian Power’s father was murdered. 
In the years and months that have followed, Gian has faced many challenges. At 23 years old he was forced to lead an investigation, conduct a legal fight and hold down a job at PwC.
Doing so brought home to Gian the lack of cultural understanding of mental health in many ethnic communities. Expectations and norms that are second nature in some cultures are quite alien in others. 
Representing Gian, Semrin explained how TLC Lions, the business Gian founded after leaving PwC, has a vision to normalise change and promote belonging through the power of storytelling.

Peter Mansfield, RPC LLP

Chapter: Belief

Everything starts with a single act of belief. From law to culture, religion to business, politics to people’s relationships, everything is saturated in belief.
Which is why the workplace is such a fascinating environment. In our private lives, we’re free to surround ourselves with people who share our beliefs. At work, we’re forced to understand and collaborate with people whose beliefs may differ from ours.
This compels us to challenge our assumptions. We believe we do what we do because it’s right. How do we square that with what other people believe? In his chapter, Peter explores the link between belief and communities.

Laura Vosper, Obelisk Support

Chapter: “Age is but a number”: ensuring that multi-generational working adds up for the legal industry (with Dana Denis-Smith, Obelisk Support)

Introducing this co-authored chapter, Laura explained how finding ways to include people of all ages across the workforce benefits employers and employees alike.
Figures suggest that the career patterns of solicitors as they progress through life stages may be difficult to sustain. Female solicitors, for example tend to reach the most productive phase of their careers at the same time as they start families. This means many have to choose between their careers and having children. 
Similarly, 60% of lawyers are aged 25 to 44, compared to just 13% aged 55 to 64. The legal profession has made great progress in promoting multi-generational working – but there’s still work to do.

Rachel Pears, RPC LLP

Chapter: At a crossroads with intersectionality

Groups can be a great thing but there’s an irony. If you have to have a characteristic to be in it, the group can, by definition, be non-inclusive and lack diversity. 
What if you fall into two or more groups – for example are from an ethnic minority and are disabled? Or are a female job applicant aged 56?
This is intersectionality, where the risk of compound discrimination arises. You may find yourself engaged in dialogues specific to your background, disability, gender or age, but not yet about the issue of intersectionality itself. Rachel, an employment lawyer and D&I lead at RPC, explains in her chapter, how diversity is not a zero-sum game.

Rebecca Cater,  CLL - on behalf of Emma Cusdin and Rachel Reese, Global Butterflies

Chapter: Trans and non-binary inclusion in the legal workspace

Elizabeth Rimmer, LawCare

Chapter: Mental Health and wellbeing in the legal community

Closing the talks was Rebecca Cater, Head of the Centre for Legal Leadership. 
While standing in for two authors who were unable to make the event, Rebecca shared many moments in her own life that have caused problems. Ranging from mental health issues, conflicts of beliefs and internal family struggles, Rebecca’s story was a reminder that whatever D&I related challenges you may face, you are not alone.
Long may that continue.

Diversity and Inclusion in the Legal Profession Second Edition is available in softback and eBook formats here.

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