Making change in the legal profession
“The work fostered an unprecedented level of collaboration: the result was action”
The legal profession has recently stepped up efforts to increase socio-economic diversity among its hires. But what happens to people from lower socio-economic backgrounds once they’re in? Where do their careers take them – and how do they compare with their more affluent peers?
In the first report of its kind, the Bridge Group brought together eight leading UK law firms to find out – and find ways to make change happen. Allen & Overy, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP), Clifford Chance, Dentons, Hogan Lovells, Holman Fenwick Willan, Linklaters and Pinsent Masons shared data on more than 2,800 early career professionals, and the Bridge Group undertook 60 interviews with current and former employees.
That sense of shared enterprise was essential to the quality of the final work, says Tim Smith, Partner at BCLP. “The Bridge Group colleagues were able to foster an unprecedented collaboration and sharing of experience between the firms, which became especially important when we came to agree the content and recommendations of the final report, Socio-economic Background and Early Career Progression in the Law. The result was that we had a compelling piece of research and some strong recommendations with which we could all work.”
BCLP, says Tim, has already begun thinking about how it might make changes. “The reception given to the research within our firm was a mixture of surprise, curiosity and horror. For the first time, we had reliable results based on data rather than just anecdotes or speculation. We are already implementing the recommendations to drive change.”
It’s essential, he says, that the sector comes together to meet the diversity challenge – and having the right data is a key step. “Quite apart from the desire of law firms to do the right thing so far as diversity and equality of opportunity is concerned, the research gave tangible proof – if it were needed – that there is also an economic reason for law firms to get this right, to stop the migration of their top talent.”