Yesterday’s publication by the UK government of an audit on race disparity would have fed well into the discussion we had at our Leading Lawyers Club, a regular networking event run by Laurence Simons, Lexis Nexis and Radius Law. We met to discuss diversity within the legal profession – are we doing enough? A panel discussion was moderated by Iain Larkins, Director from Radius Law and the participants were Chris White, Founder of Aspiring Lawyers, James Hutchens from Aspiring Lawyers; Barry Matthews, Director, Legal Affairs and Third Party Sales at ITV and S.R.A. Board Member; Clare Butler, Global Managing Director, Laurence Simons and 30% Club advocate. Discussion was informed and informative. Passionate and practical.
The panel agreed that to be selected because you are the best person for the job is paramount. But what does this mean? Legal talent is not only about black letter law but also emotional intelligence and a wider range of soft skills. Understanding the “value” of academics – meaning an A* at A level from a fee-paying school or a 2:1 Law degree from a Russell Group university may not be “better” than a B from an inner-city comprehensive or a 2:1 Law degree from a former Polytechnic – is key. Do we allow for this in our hiring processes? What part does talent acquisition have to play and who is educating them?
Further discussion centred on whether unconscious biases play a part. Human beings connect with other human beings that share similarities, whether that is sport, creed, colour or a passion for shoes! Audience members shared personal experiences of diversity within the legal profession. These ranged from thinking at an Oxford university interview that their face didn’t fit until they saw others that looked like them to being told that a prospective hire was “too ghetto!” [Yes, we were shocked too.] If the small talk during selection process centres on cricket and your small talk lends itself more to the current Top 20 does this make a difference? Does senior leadership engage in diversity? Is it a tick-box exercise by H.R.?
James shared his story. It was powerful. Working over 40 hours a week and studying full time, law was not a consideration for him, until he heard Chris White from Aspiring Lawyers speak. James thought something he had never thought before: perhaps, just maybe, he could be a lawyer. Now he is well on his way to this outcome with a training contract secured at a City law firm. A positive spokesperson and role model for what diversity can mean. James got the only ovation of the night when talking about his experience. He would be an asset to any organisation. Hire him post-training contract and see what benefits James brings to your organisation: Diversity.
What do you think? Has your company moved from this being a tick-box exercise led by H.R. to an active and engaged company-wide value? Let us know.
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