Oct 23, 2021

Written By Thomas Cserep

Do law firms offer support to people from diverse backgrounds?

Oct 23, 2021

Written By Thomas Cserep

More and more law firms and organisations are taking steps to increase diversity in the legal industry. From diversity committees to flexible schedules, there are a range of ways firms support people from a wide variety of backgrounds to start a career in law.  

Why is diversity important?

It is crucial to have a diverse legal industry to make it more representative of society and legitimise a country’s juridical system.

It’s crucial for good business too: studies show that firms with a highly diverse workforce have improved performance as they are able to provide a better service to clients.  

 

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Creating a welcoming environment

Many law firms are trying to make diversity targets an intrinsic part of business operations. 

One of the most key ways law firms are attempting to foster diversity is by creating a welcoming environment where everyone feels comfortable working. An inclusive law firm does not tolerate discrimination and fosters a community that employees feel proud to belong to. 

Companies aim to build an open environment where people are encouraged to discuss issues whenever they arise, with good communication between employees at all levels of the firm.

Firms have also endeavoured to change their company culture to become more inclusive. From encouraging the use of appropriate pronouns to establishing gender neutral toilets and dress codes, firms are taking steps to ensure that those from all backgrounds feel comfortable in the workplace. 

A welcoming environment also helps maintain the morale of employees, which in turn can increase the law firm’s productivity.

 

Diversity & inclusion staff 

Diversity and inclusion officers are dedicated employees responsible for dealing with any incidents of discrimination, making sure that the diversity codes of conduct are upheld. 

Companies have started employing diversity officers, who hold workshops on the importance of diversity in the legal industry and raise awareness of discrimination. Certain firms also chair committees which are responsible for drafting out and implementing a business’ policies on diversity. 

A diversity inclusion officer gives a firm a sense of accountability: there is a person that employees can turn to if they are concerned about the company’s code of conduct being broken. 

 

Mentoring schemes

In addition to hiring diversity inclusion officers and establishing diversity committees, some law firms also offer mentoring schemes to their recently hired workers. Mentors may come from a similar background to the mentee. 

Mentoring schemes allow new employees to confide in someone if they face any issues at the firm and also support their development as solicitors. 

External counsel

Firms have also been hiring the services of external counsels. As well as evaluating the company’s diversity policy, they also give advice on how they could better support people from underrepresented backgrounds. 

An external counsel is a great way for firms to see if they’re doing enough to meet diversity targets, as a third-party organisation will provide an objective evaluation of the issue.  

 

Providing flexibility in schedule

Firms try to adapt to the needs of employees by offering flexibility in their schedule. This move has particularly been welcomed by solicitors and lawyers with young children, who are now able to mould their timetable around family responsibilities. 

From offering the option of working outside the standard 9-to-5 schedule, to allowing employees to work from home, law firms are making an attempt to accommodate individuals who are underrepresented in the industry and otherwise would not be able to work in law full-time. 

 

Whilst there is still a way to go until the legal industry becomes fully representative of UK society, law firms are certainly taking the right measures to support people from diverse backgrounds.

 

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