There's no question that embracing diversity can bring benefits to the legal profession in the UK. To truly make a difference, the change has to come from within. It has to be real, tangible and meaningful. Let’s take a look at why law firms need to make a change and start embracing diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Why Law Firms Need To Embrace Diversity
It has long been recognised that the general public want the legal experts who represent them to understand them, their background and the difficulties that they face. They feel a connection with a lawyer who has personal experience of their situation and are far more inclined to trust them to handle their sensitive legal affairs.
Diversity in the workplace also fosters a culture of innovation. People from different backgrounds come together to tackle problems and generate solutions, bringing with them a variety of different ideas, skill sets and experiences. This sharing of experiences often delivers solutions that would not have been possible otherwise, creating more effective processes and outcomes and delivering improved legal and financial outcomes for their firm.
These are merely two reasons why inclusion in the UK legal market matters. There are many more, ranging from the fact that it is simply the right thing to do, through to immeasurable value in employer branding and external marketing endeavours. What is vital, however, is that making the choice to embrace diversity comes from a genuine desire to improve the employee experience for everyone, not merely as a hollow profit-seeking exercise.
The Mansfield Rule
The Mansfield Rule was introduced in July 2021 and allows firms to gain a certification demonstrating that of the candidates that they consider for leadership roles, at least 30% of them are from under-represented groups, including women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities or those identifying as LBGTQIA+. This move has been hailed as ground-breaking, but it is so open to abuse that unless all those involved in the recruitment process passionately believe in levelling the playing field, the sector will only ever pay lip service to the issue.
Driving Change From The Top
When law firms embrace diversity and wholeheartedly seek to create a more inclusive culture, great things can happen. They can attract staff and clients whose life experiences, education and culture can enrich and shape the working environment. They can mirror and accurately represent their clientele from all walks of life, and deliver remarkable outcomes.
When these changes happen in senior leadership roles in particular, the ability to effect change is almost immediate. Passionate and diverse leadership teams drive progress in all areas, from hiring to staff retention, client satisfaction, positive outcomes and increased profitability. Once a business is functioning at such a level, its reputation begins to precede it, simplifying all aspects of attracting clients and talented staff.
Larger law firms would be wise to take a leaf out of the book of their one-partner competitors who, evidence has shown, are already feeling the benefit of increased diversity in their leadership teams. To start on this journey, it is important to benchmark the current position of a firm, identify areas of weakness and target those in upcoming recruitment drives. Improving diversity within any law firm will not happen overnight but when it does, the benefits will be substantial.
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