An initiative was launched today aimed at ensuring black and ethnic minority candidates at law firms receive the same opportunities to compete for roles as similarly qualified white counterparts.
Thirty-four recruitment agencies have already signed up to the Recruitment Agency Race Fairness Commitment, launched by talent firm Rare and five law firms.
The commitment is aimed at securing equal access to opportunities for ethnic minority candidates and builds on the Race Fairness Commitment (RFC) which has seen 30-plus legal firms seeking to tackle organisational barriers that hold back the careers of employees from ethnic minorities.
Recruitment through agencies is still vital for City firms, so it is key that these partner organisations share in the same commitment we have made to help ensure fairness for everyone, irrespective of their race or ethnicity” – Louise Meikle, HR director, Slaughter and May
The founding legal members are Ashurst, Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills, Slaughter and May, and Travers Smith, which were also founding members of the RFC.
Under the new race fairness commitment, agencies and law firms will take proactive steps to ensure ethnic minority candidates are just as likely to be contacted about, apply for, interview for, and be offered career opportunities as white candidates. This is recognition that in the legal sector external agencies must play as important a role as the law firms themselves in ensuring there is a lack of bias in talent decision-making.
Experienced and senior candidates will be subject to the new initiative as well as entry-level candidates, to ensure a “top-down” as well as “bottom-up” effect on diversity in organisations. Rare underlined that “racial equity of opportunity must be addressed at all recruitment points”. The eventual aim is to achieve candidate pools that at least match UK ethnic diversity demographics and reflect with accuracy the make-up of the local population.
It encourages recruiters to explore the contextual backgrounds and experiences of black and ethnic minority candidates to better represent diverse candidates to organisations;
demanding hard, factual feedback on any ethnic minority candidates not hired. Phrases such as “didn’t fit” and “something is not quite right” should not be acceptable reasons for not hiring, said Rare.
On an annual basis recruitment agencies will be asked to submit evidence of progress in relation to the nine points in the commitment. This will be reviewed by a steering group, comprised of representatives from Rare and the founding law firms, to ensure the commitment remains fit for purpose.
Amy Hambleton, director at RedLaw, said: “Through our partnership with the Recruitment Agency Race Fairness Commitment, we will work to ensure that all agency and law firm recruitment processes are conducted without prejudice or bias, particularly in respect of ethnicity. We want to set the bar for best practice not just in the legal industry but across recruitment in its entirety.”
Gareth Quarry, chairman and joint group chief executive at SSQ, referred to the UK’s historic bias towards certain educational institutions. He said: “It is only by being pro-active that we will break down unconscious bias and open up the profession to everyone.
The law is less diverse than many other business sectors. This is a product of our educational and social systems to a large extent. – Gareth Quarry, SSQ
“The law is less diverse than many other business sectors. This is a product of our educational and social systems to a large extent. We are determined to do all we can to change this. It is very easy to talk about diversity. True inclusion is harder to achieve. We work with our clients to help them achieve their diversity objectives.”
For Clifford Chance, Sarah Langton, global head of recruitment, said: “Inclusion will not happen by itself. We need to be committed to permanently campaign for it, champion and defend it. We must devise targeted and tailored initiatives to strip away the barriers that prevent us from delivering the inclusive rules and culture all our people deserve.”
Director of human resources at Slaughter and May Louise Meikle, said external agencies had to play a larger part in ensuring a more diverse workforce at law firms: “To achieve meaningful change, we need an end-to-end commitment to increasing black and ethnic minority representation, not only in legal roles but across all parts of law firms.
“Recruitment through agencies is still vital for City firms, so it is key that these partner organisations share in the same commitment we have made to help ensure fairness for everyone, irrespective of their race or ethnicity.”
The 34 recruitment firms that have signed up are Ambition, Anthem, Ardent, Baldwin Boyes, BCL Legal, Brewer Morris, Career Legal, Carter Murray, CB Resourcing, DGH Recruitment, DVF, Frazer Jones, Front of House Recruitment, Glen Recruitment, Hydrogen, HYF, Jameson Contract Solutions, Jameson Legal, Langley Search, Law Absolute, Law Choice, Leighton Taylor, Lexstep.com, Michael Page, Page Group, Page Personnel, Picture More, RedLaw, Ryder Reid, Sam Stafford Search, Stanford, Strictly Recruitment, SSQ and Taylor Root.