RPC’s role in the diversity & inclusion space
We spoke to Ellinor Davey, Early Talent Lead, and Rachel Pears, Inclusion & Diversity Lead, about the diversity and inclusion initiatives at law firm RPC.
Diversity at the application and recruitment stage
Can you briefly explain the Rare contextual recruitment system: what is it, and how does it help RPC to recruit from a diverse talent pool?
RPC adopted Rare's Contextual Recruitment system in 2016. It factors social mobility metrics into our graduate recruitment process, allowing us to identify the very best candidates regardless of their socio-economic background. We are proud to say that 40% of our 2020 London trainee intake are Rare candidates.
Is there space at the application and interview stage to make a note of any special requirements, such as disability, for example?
Yes, absolutely. Candidates are able to provide details of any special requirements at all stages of recruitment; application form, psychometric testing, assessment day and summer scheme (if relevant). We are an equal opportunities employer.
Does RPC participate in recruitment events aimed at a diverse group of candidates?
We are involved in a number of diversity events and initiatives aimed at encouraging access to the firm—and the legal profession in general—for those who may otherwise be dissuaded from law due to their circumstances or their impressions of the sector. These include:
- Target Jobs "Inside City Law" and "BAME City Law "
- DiversCity in Law
- RPC/University of Law Legal Access Scheme
- Aspiring Solicitors
- East London Business Alliance
- Bright Network
What are the benefits of recruiting a diverse range of individuals?
People are at the heart of everything that we do. From our employees to our clients, it's what they expect from us. The more diverse range of people the better. RPC can see the benefit of a business that truly reflects the diversity of all of society. From diversity of thought, to different perspectives and styles, and a more inclusive and fulfilling workplace (for our employees and clients), we believe it's essential for any modern business today.
For students from a minority background who may feel apprehensive about applying to a top law firm, what advice do you have?
First and foremost, do your research. Look at law firm websites to check what they say about inclusion and diversity, including their own, who they picture, and which organisations they partner with. Next, read what others say about them. The legal trade publications spend a lot of time analysing the business of law, including the diversity of the law firms. Combine this with checking out their social media feeds: do they talk about inclusion and diversity?
Inclusion while working at RPC
What is the level of support for trainees just starting out in the world of work, who may feel in the minority?
Upon arrival at RPC, our new trainees are informed immediately of the support that we have in place, including all of our employee networks and RPC's approach to our inclusion and diversity structure. In addition to this, the trainees have close access to our graduate recruitment team, which forms part of our people team (HR) should they ever have a concern or just need to talk. Each trainee is also allocated a mentor to provide them with a confidential sounding board.
What internal groups and organisations are there at RPC to support various groups and minorities through their RPC journey?
While RPC's culture lives up to its reputation of being friendly, collaborative and supportive, we took this a few steps further and launched a peer support network called allies@RPC. This means that when trainees come into the firm they immediately can feel that there is an existing support network already in place should they need it. Our allies—who are each required to sign a declaration committing their support—are visible in person (lanyards), online (signposted on the phone directory), and desk side. We are proud to say that we currently have over 120 self-appointed allies from across the firm.
We have also established I&D working groups—"work streams"—each focusing on a different I&D strand: gender, ethnicity, LGBT+, mental health, caring responsibilities, social mobility, faith and disability. Each work stream comprises individuals from all different roles and teams within the firm (some of them are also allies and some are not). We have over 70 people from across the firm involved in the work streams.
Though the work streams plan training, education and social and networking events and initiatives year round, we also focus on a particular work stream every six months to help raise awareness.
Our allies@RPC network and our I&D work streams are ultimately governed by our balanced business task force that meets regularly to discuss and ultimately provide governance for the firm's I&D initiatives. The balanced business taskforce is chaired by a member of our partnership executive board so there is a direct line between our I&D work and the most senior members of the firm.
What is in place to support the mental health of staff – are there flexible working policies, for example, or mental health first aiders?
Mental health and the wellbeing of our people is a priority for the firm. Outside of yoga, massages, and employee sports clubs, RPC has put into place a number of initiatives to ensure that we look after our people.
RPC has had a robust flexible working culture for a number of years and this is backed by solid policies to ensure that everyone who wants to can work flexibly. And our people do.
We also encourage people to let us know when they need to take time out for mental health reasons, including discreetly logging into the employee system and having a list of reasons (depression, stress, etc) to take time out. The information is private.
And if someone needs help while they are at work, not only do we have a free employee assistance programme, but also members of our people team are trained mental health first aiders while a group of allies have had mental health training. They have all been communicated to the firm and have special badges on their lanyards.
Our private medical insurance benefit offers a free mental health triage service called “stronger minds” that can allow our staff to bypass the GP referral stage and get access directly to an appropriate mental health specialist if needed.
The mental health work stream also regularly plans internal and external events with the aim of reducing the stigma around mental health, promoting awareness and understanding and of encouraging us all to take care of ourselves and others.
Is there a culture of mentors and mentees at RPC?
There is absolutely a culture of mentor and mentee relationships, some of which are organic in their nature and some of which are formed via our people team. We also annually participate in the 30% Club.
How does a more inclusive workplace have an effect on the legal work carried out?
It's a no-brainer that when people feel comfortable and included at work, they are more engaged and perform at their best. And we want our people giving their work their all when they're here. A more inclusive and diverse workplace also brings a broader range of perspective and ideas to our client work and how we approach a particular legal matter. People's background and experiences inform their opinions and how they approach a problem and since lawyers are, fundamentally, problem solvers, we think the more ideas the better! You never know where the next creative solution for a client will come from.
Big steps are being taken across the legal sector and beyond to make workplaces more inclusive. What would you like the firm to look like—in terms of diversity and inclusion—in ten years’ time?
Ideally, we will have a genuinely diverse group of brilliant lawyers working at all levels of the firm. They will feel that they have equal opportunities for career development and progression and feel inspired and engaged by the culture and work at RPC.
To find out more about opportunities at RPC, please visit the firm's profile.
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