Feb 07, 2019

Written By Article contributed by BCLP

Talking diversity and inclusion with BCLP

Feb 07, 2019

Written By Article contributed by BCLP

As diversity and inclusion within law becomes ever more important, we sat down with BCLP’s Michael Anderson, graduate recruitment partner and co-chair of the LGBT+ network, as well as Lucy Hutchison, diversity and inclusivity adviser, to talk about the firm’s LGBT+ network, and how these spaces help to ensure a collaborative, safe and stimulating work environment for all.

What kind of LGBT+ initiatives are in place at the firm to promote inclusivity?
The UK offices of the firm are part of BCLP’s global LGBT+ network; in particular, we liaise a lot with the North American offices of the firm following our merger earlier this year. Running in parallel and in conjunction with that network is our allies network. Those are the two groups of direct relevance to LGBT+ individuals, but there has been a lot of focus on intersectionality over the past 18 months or so at the firm; it’s certainly possible to be involved in a variety of networks and groups that speak to your identity. 

The LGBT+ network has done some collaborative events with the gender representation group, including an event on International Women’s Day with Olympic gold medallist Kate Richardson-Walsh. We’ve also done a number of joint initiatives with the family network, including an event that covered adoption. A recent internal event also covered coming out to your family, in which people who are LGBT+ at the firm who have come out to their parents shared their stories. There were speakers from a number of backgrounds and religions, each with a unique perspective on this sensitive issue. We also had a parent speak at the event.

Why is it important for BCLP to have a diverse and inclusive workforce? 
It’s first and foremost the morally right thing to have an inclusive workforce; if people are accepted in the workplace, they will ultimately be happier. We also want to reflect society and the clients for which we act. Thirdly, as a business, we want to access the best talent, and if we were only to interview straight white males, for example, we would be cutting out a huge proportion of potential recruits.

What events or initiatives have been held by the LGBT+ network recently? 
Pride is naturally an important date in our LGBT+ calendar; while the LGBT+ network runs a lot of external events that are open to everybody, we tend to keep an internal focus when it comes to Pride, as it’s about the firm and the people who work at BCLP. This year, we celebrated Pride with a barbeque on the river, taking advantage of the summer heatwave. It was a chance for those who define as LGBT+ from across the firm to speak, including trainees and associates as well as some of the fantastic role models within the partnership.

BCLP joined with Stonewall earlier this year to launch a trans-equality initiative. Could you talk a little bit about that? 
We were thrilled to be listed as a top trans employer in 2018. We’re strong advocates for the revision of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), for which Stonewall has been actively campaigning. We also hosted the launch of Stonewall’s trans allies pilot training session, which was attended by BCLP as well as individuals from a variety of other organisations. It felt important to be part of an ally training programme to educate on how trans individuals specifically should be supported. 

Do you think that it’s important for firms to cross-collaborate with other LGBT+ groups?
It’s absolutely crucial. We’ve learned so much from so many of our collaborators, competitors and our clients, and we’re just as willing to share our own expertise. There’s a real lack of competition within diversity and inclusion. We’re all on this journey together, and ultimately we all want each other to do better and to learn from each other.

We’re currently working on an initiative with Stonewall, the Law Society and the SRA, on what’s effectively a firm mentoring initiative. The top ten firms in the UK workplace equality index will be mentoring smaller, more regional firms that don’t necessarily have the diversity and inclusion resources that we have.

As well as our work with Stonewall, we also hosted an event with Mind, the mental-health charity, in September last year. The event was focused on bi-visibility day, looking specifically at mental health and bisexual identity. It’s really important to us to work with bodies such as Mind and Stonewall, who are experts in their particular areas, in order to learn from them. 

In what ways are non-LGBT+ members of the firm kept informed and educated on the best way to be allies?
We acknowledge that LGBT+ initiatives are not just to be led by LGBT+ individuals themselves; our board have always led by example and we have a strong network of Allies across the firm. We have an annual Allies party to celebrate the role that allies play, as well as giving them visible symbols such as rainbow notepads and pens in order to communicate their status as allies to their colleagues. It automatically shows that they are a channel of support and advice, should anyone need it. 

I’d say that it’s crucially important for allies to be part of the campaigns we do, and to be sending out positive messages about LGBT+ matters themselves, rather than it coming from the LGBT+ network alone. 

What advice do you have for anyone identifying as LGBT+ who’s considering a career in law? 
The good news is that, having been here nearly 30 years, I’ve seen a lot of changes. While about ten years ago, a trainee might not have felt comfortable talking about their sexuality or identity at work, any trainees joining a law firm today will have a lot more support. Here at BCLP, trainees can get involved in the network from their very first week, and can get involved in events as well as getting to know other members. It’s really refreshing to see how society has changed in that regard. pa