"People are at the heart of everything that we do" : diversity and inclusion at RPC
In order for diversity and inclusion to be successful at law firms, it's essential for those firms to introduce their own initiatives and schemes. RPC has been doing just that. We spoke to Ellinor Davey, people & projects manager, as well as Emma Maksimovic, engagement and inclusion manager, to find out more.
DIVERSITY AT RPC
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. During our most recent recruitment campaign (2017/2018), we’re 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 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). RPC will make reasonable adjustments for these requirements, and our team is always available to discuss in further detail.
Does RPC participate in recruitment events aimed at a diverse group of candidates?
We’re 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 “City Law for Ethnic Minorities”
• DiversCity in Law
• RPC/University of Law Legal Access Scheme
• Aspiring Solicitors
• East London Business Alliance
• Bright Futures
What are the benefits of recruiting a diverse range of individuals?
People are at the heart of everything we do; from our employees to our clients, it’s what they expect from us. The more diverse the 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 right 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 & 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 & Diversity?
INCLUSION WHILE WORKING AT RPC
What’s the level of support like 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 governing our Inclusion & Diversity structure and approach. 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 feel uncomfortable. Each trainee is also allocated a mentor who provides 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 recently took this a few steps further and launched an allies programme and network in January called allies@RPC. Allies networks typically support the LGBT+ community, and while we felt that this was important, we thought it would be essential for allies@RPC to be all-encompassing so we can foster an inclusive culture at RPC. This means that when trainees come into the firm they can immediately feel that there’s an existing support network should they need it. Our allies—who are each required to sign a declaration committing their support— are visible in person (lanyards), online (sign-posted on the phone directory) and desk side.
Working alongside allies@RPC is RPC RAIN, our LGBT+ network which is based in our Bristol and London offices. They are made up of lawyers and business services employees. RPC RAIN works hard to raise awareness around LGBT+ topics and issues, while also maintain itself as a network.
What’s 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. If someone needs help while they are at work, not only do we have an Employee Assistance Programme that’s a free service to use, but also members of our people team (HR) are trained mental health first aiders, while a group of allies have had mental-health training. They have all been made known to the firm as a whole and have special badges on their lanyards.
Is there a culture of mentors and mentees at RPC?
There absolutely is 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.
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 at work, they perform at their highest potential, and so a truly inclusive workplace full of happy employees will inevitably achieve success after success. The legal sector is no different. Lawyers who come into work feeling they can be who they are at home, at work will try harder, perform better and carry out stellar legal work. 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?
If RPC is still working at becoming more reflective of the makeup of society in ten years’ time, then we have failed. In 2028, RPC should be a place where our lawyers excel because the playing field is level and equal. That means that we’d recruit people into the firm who come from all areas of society. Over the course of their careers at RPC, they will feel they are progressed fairly and they will spend their entire working life at our firm.