Diversity & inclusion at Osborne Clarke

Diversity & inclusion is becoming ever more important at law firms, and Osborne Clarke is no exception. We caught up with them to find out what’s in place at the firm.

  • Last updated Feb 13, 2020 10:35:20 AM
  • Article contributed by Osborne Clarke
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Why is diversity and inclusion important to Osborne Clarke?

Having a supportive and inclusive culture is a key focus for us and is part of what makes working for Osborne Clarke so unique. As a firm, we know that a diverse business means better collaboration, highly effective problem solving and even more innovative thinking. Ultimately that’s what our people and clients expect from us and it makes our business even stronger. We are working to ingrain diversity into everything we do and we are committed to investing and retaining the best talent.

Sustaining an inclusive culture and increasing diversity within our firm are central to making Osborne Clarke a great place to work and a great firm for our clients to work with. There is a huge amount of research to show that diversity teams outperform those that are not diverse and businesses with diverse boards outperform those that are not. We want everyone to be themselves and feel that they belong and are able to achieve their full potential.

At the application and interview stage, what measures does the firm take to appeal to as wide a range of applicants as possible?

We have partnered with Rare, a multi-award winning diversity company, to integrate their Contextual Recruitment System (CRS) into our recruitment process. The CRS enables us to further understand the context in which applicants’ experiences have been gained, and recruit the very best people from a range of backgrounds. There is also space within the application form to disclose any mitigating circumstances.

Additionally, all of our people involved in the recruitment process have completed unconscious bias training.

Not everyone has the clearest picture of what the legal profession entails. Do you participate in any outreach events with schools and universities?

We take part in Social Mobility Business Partnership (SMBP), sharing insight into careers in law to those from disadvantaged backgrounds.This means that over the last three years, we have hosted 30 students from disadvantaged backgrounds for work experience programmes. We’ve also helped around another 100 students to gain an insight into the law elsewhere, providing them with opportunities to talk to our clients and other law firms. This has resulted in some of our legal apprentices being recruited through their involvement in the SMBP work experience programme.

We also host career skills workshops with Vision Path for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. As part of this, we take part in and host workshops, reaching out to hundreds of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, helping with their team working, innovation and presentation skills. 

In 2018, we helped to diversify routes into the legal profession by recruiting our first intake of Solicitor Apprentices. The Osborne Clarke Solicitor Apprenticeship is a 6-year, level-7 programme on which apprentices gain an LLB (Hons) in Legal Practice from BPP University Law School (BPP) as well as qualifying as a solicitor. All of their tuition fees will be paid and they earn a salary while training. 

The apprenticeship combines practical work-based learning with formal study. Apprentices gain valuable, real-life experience in a leading international legal practice, enhancing their commercial understanding and growing their confidence in a work environment. It is the ideal opportunity to benefit from an exciting new world of work and study while avoiding the costs usually associated with undertaking a degree.

We believe our workplace and business are better through having people from the broadest possible social backgrounds and we are committed to making this a reality through a completely fair and transparent recruitment process in which positions are offered purely on ability and not on an individual's position, status or relationships. This year, we launched our "Insight into Legal Practice" placements. Aimed at students in Years 11, 12 and 13, this placement is open to anyone interested in a legal career and provides students with experience from the lawyers perspective on a deal from the point of instruction right the way through to completion.

We work in partnership with a wide number of universities, attending numerous law fairs as well as running our own workshops with the aim of providing application advice to all students regardless of their background, gender, ethnicity or where they live. We understand that not everyone is able to attend an event on campus so we also run presentation evenings at each of our UK offices. The evening will include talks from partners and trainees, as well as the opportunity to network with the wider firm. 

In what other ways are you committed to creating a diverse workforce at Osborne Clarke?

We are launching our diversity strategy and have created some strategic aims in consultation with our people to create a diverse, inclusive place to work. We have diversity networks for ethnic minorities, LGBT+ colleagues and allies, and we have a gender network. We will also be focusing on mind and body and age inclusivity. We are recruiting senior-level champions to drive change and engage the leadership of the firm and all of our people.

In terms of diversity, what are you most proud of within the past five years?

We integrated D&I into everyday organisational life by establishing a women’s network to help us retain and promote women. This helped us to increase our female partner promotions from 27% female in 2017 to 63% female in 2019.

This was just one initiative that led to us being seventh UK firm to achieve the National Equality Standard certification, an independent verification across 35 competencies and seven standards for equality, diversity and inclusion excellence. 

In what ways are trainees made to feel included in the firm's overall culture when they join the firm?

All our future trainees first attend an assessment centre and over 90% complete a vacation scheme so they are able to experience our culture first hand. 

We keep in touch with our trainees before they begin their Training Contract and invite them to the office for a number of different events including firm-wide annual parties and trainee-specific training sessions. 

During their induction week, trainees are invited to a number of different events, with the purpose of informing them about all the various activities and societies they are able to get involved with. They are also paired with a trainee buddy (alongside their more formal supervisor and supervising partner) who is able to give them more insight into the firm. 

Throughout their training contract, trainees are actively encouraged to participate in as many activities as they would like. The majority of our trainees engage with pro-bono activities and are active members of Osborne Clarke For Good, which is our way of making sure we're a good corporate citizen. It’s very important to us and to realise it, we focus on the following five For Good pillars:

- Using expertise for good 

- Good for our communities 

- Good for the environment 

- Being a good business 

- Always a good employer 

The five pillars ensure there is always something for everyone. In the Bristol office, all trainees take part in "reading scheme" where they assist with one-to-one reading sessions with Year 1 pupils at a local school, whilst in our London office, all trainees participate in the South Westminster Legal Advice Clinic where they volunteer a few hours to provide free legal advice to clients. Additionally, we have many social events throughout the year and have a large number of sports teams. 

What specific groups and organisations does Osborne Clarke have to promote inclusion? (E.g. BAME, Women's network, LGBT+)

Anyone at Osborne Clarke is able to join a number of different networks. We have set up various groups to help develop an inclusive and integrated environment for all. These include OC BAME, OC Gender and OC Pride and are there to champion OC's inclusive values both within and outside the firm. 

What sorts of events and workshops does the firm participate in to promote diversity and inclusion (either internally or externally?)

We have built relationships with a number of external bodies who help us engage with as many diverse candidates as possible. These include our partnership with TargetJobs for their BAME City Law event and Bright Network who run events aimed at a diverse group of candidates. We are also part of the interlaw diversity network which hosts a number of events every year.  

Internally, we also regularly run unconscious bias training sessions, cultural awareness sessions, and encourage our employees to raise any issues, make suggestions and share ideas through our anonymous employee forum. 

What is in place to ensure that mental wellbeing is maintained among employees?

We raise awareness every year during mental health awareness week and world mental health day. We mark these with seminars and events on the topic. 

We have recently trained over 70 mental health champions who support the mental wellbeing of colleagues and spot any concerning signs early on. We've also signed up to the Mindful Business Charter, which aims to reduce unnecessary stress within the workplace. We are working on embedding its principles internally. 

Aside from this, we also offer regular yoga, pilates and mindfulness classes in our UK offices.

What advice would you give to anyone from a minority background looking to apply for opportunities at Osborne Clarke?

Talk to our employees about our culture. We're looking for people from different backgrounds and cultures to help us to help our clients as the firm of tomorrow.

 

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