Legal sector dominates workplace equality index
Stonewall's findings reflect how many firms are leading by example, says Law Society president
The legal profession has been praised for its efforts in championing equality and diversity after law firms were found to make up half of the top ten most inclusive organisations to work for, according to LGBT charity Stonewall’s latest workplace equality index.
While Lloyds Banking Group was named the UK’s most inclusive employer, Pinsent Masons came second (up from fifth in 2016), followed by Clifford Chance in fourth (up from ninth), and Baker Mckenzie in seventh (previously 11th).
Rounding off the top ten are Berwin Leighton Paisner (eighth) and Norton Rose Fulbright (tenth).
Also appearing in the top 100 of best performing companies are Dentons, Hogan Lovells, Herbert Smith Freehills, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, CMS Cameron Mckenna, DWF, K&L Gates, Travers Smith, Eversheds, and Slaughter and May.
Eight organisations, including Simmons & Simmons, were awarded ‘Star Performer’ status after ‘graduating’ the index. These are organisations that were found to have gone above and beyond in demonstrating their commitment to LGBT inclusion at work.
Maziar Jamnejad, a senior associate at Freshfields, was recognised with the ‘Ally of the Year’ award for his efforts to encourage openness and equality for his LGBT colleagues.
Jamnejad became the first non-LGBT member of Halo, the Magic Circle firm’s global LGBT network. ‘I wear the label “ally” with immense pride and look forward to continuing to work to help the firm be an inclusive and welcoming place for all,’ he said.
Commenting on the index results, the president of the Law Society, Robert Bourns, said seeing five law firms in the top ten employers for LGBT equality was ‘hugely inspiring’.
‘As solicitors we uphold the law, including important equality legislation. The inclusion of such a significant number of law firms in Stonewall’s index reflects how many are leading by example,’ he continued.
‘Diversity is a powerful force for good. We also know that businesses benefit from strong diversity and inclusion policies and practices that help attract both clients and the best talent,’ added Bourns.
‘Equality for all under the law is a central principle of the legal sector and we will continue to advocate for those facing discrimination.’
Kevin Poulter, a partner at Child & Child and former editor at large of Solicitors Journal, said it was is important that clients and the general public see the legal profession practices as it advises, according to the law, and promotes equal opportunities across its workforce.
'Although the rankings are favoured towards large and international firms, it is apparent that progress is being made in smaller firms across the country,' he said. 'Of course, not every LGBT solicitor, trainee, partner, or staff member feels able to be their true selves at work or with clients. This message will hopefully send some reassurance to those in this position and encourage employers to act fairly, without discrimination or intimidation.'
'The Law Society’s LGBT Division is able to support those who have concerns and will continue to celebrate the profession’s diversity at events across England and Wales in the coming year, starting with LGBT history month in February.'
The Solicitor Profession Diversity Profile data for 2015, published by Chancery Lane in October 2016, suggests over nine in ten solicitors are heterosexual and just 2.6 per cent are LGBT.
The Law Society’s outgoing chief executive, Catherine Dixon, told Managing Partner in 2015 law firm diversity depended on senior lawyers being ‘out and proud’, lest they be perceived as inauthentic.
In an article for Solicitors Journal, Erin Smith, chair of the society’s LGBT division, encouraged firms to embrace their LGBT colleagues for the good of their careers and business.
‘Encourage, promote, and let people be themselves to get on with their jobs,’ she said. ‘Your bottom line will thank you, and ultimately your profession will too.’
John van der Luit-Drummond is deputy editor of Solicitors Journal