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A Guide to DEI and Your Law Firm

  • February 2, 2022

Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion is a priority for employers in every sector today and is a key part of good people management where everyone is valued in an organisation.

The Black Lives Matter movement, the George Floyd tragedy in 2020, and the terrible treatment of three England football team members during the Euros have been pivotal in highlighting how far away we are from being a fair society for all.

From a work context, this is even more disappointing when the data from multiple sources confirm that diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforces drive better business outcomes. Yet, despite a significant focus on DEI in the workforce, some law firms still have work to do.

In today’s post, I want to share some fundamentals of DEI and how this may impact your law firm moving forward.

DEI Definitions and U.K. Legislation

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a term used to describe policies and programmes that promote the representation and participation of different groups of individuals, including people of different ages, races and ethnicities, abilities and disabilities, genders, religions, cultures, and sexual orientation.

As I prepared to write this article, I came across an excellent way to describe DEI from the Chief Diversity officer at the University of Michigan, Robert Sellers.

  • Diversity is where everyone is invited to the party
  • Inclusion means that everyone gets to contribute to the playlist
  • Equity means that everyone has the opportunity to dance

This metaphor by Robert is a way for us to understand that the DEI policy we have for our organisation must work in practice. For example, there is no point in employing female lawyers if they are never invited onto the board, which is the same for every minority group.

The CIPD confirms that while U.K. legislation sets minimum standards overlaying disability, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation, among others – an effective DEI strategy goes further than being legally compliant. DEI implementation benefits employee wellbeing and engagement while adding increased value to an organisation.

DEI and Business Growth

McKinsey have produced several research reports on the business case for diversity since 2014. The latest published report confirms that the case remains strong, and also, the connection between diversity on executive teams and financial outperformance has strengthened over time.

There is a strong business case for gender diversity and ethnic and cultural diversity in leadership teams. The most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability.

“Companies with more than 30 per cent women executives were more likely to outperform companies where this percentage ranged from 10 to 30, and in turn, these companies were more likely to outperform those with even fewer women executives or none at all.”

Good news about what is possible with support and focus, though the challenging times since March 2020 have impacted diverse groups.

A McKinsey study late last year found that diverse team members have struggled the most during COVID-19 and a lack of awareness around diversity, equity and inclusion issues negatively affect employees right now.

The pandemic has challenged the nature of work, job roles, organisational culture, and business strategy, and from this shake-up, we can carve a new path towards increased success in DEI.

The data confirmed that diverse teams achieve more. Therefore, it is logical to assume that law firms want to attract diverse talent in a competitive business environment.

Interestingly our changing workforce increasingly wants to join teams that embrace diversity. A post last year on the LinkedIn talent blog revealed that employers that posted more about diversity received 26% more applications from women.

This data backs up The Psychological contract concept that first emerged in the 1960s related to our beliefs and expectations of our employers, confirming that employees want to work for employers with good practices where they also feel valued.

Developing Your DEI Strategy

So, where do you start when it comes to developing a DEI strategy for your law firm? Taking a sense check on your current practice is always a good idea, especially in light of remote and hybrid teams.

The is a well-versed quote from the personal development world that what you focus on grows. The converse is true.

Perhaps the last couple of years have meant DEI, and its implementation has taken a back seat in your firm.

Maybe comments go unchecked on Zoom meetings, and your talent strategy and DEI hasn’t been discussed yet with your legal recruiting partner.

As recommended by Stephen Covey, start with the end in mind. Assess your current state and where your desired state will be.

Your overall strategy needs to cover: behaviours in your ‘workplace’, whether that be remote or hybrid working; communication, both the what and the how; your L & D process and finally, how you will review your progress as you reinforce that your firm is the inclusive place to develop your legal career.

Remember that this process will take time, and a diverse team needs an inclusive environment to thrive in your overall strategy.
DEI needs to be a theme across your organisation that aligns with other initiatives such as workplace wellbeing, investors in people and how you are developing your employer value proposition which we will cover in a future post.

Learning and Development

DEI is still a new concept for many, and consequently, we all require a deeper understanding. Start with your management team, who will be pivotal in implementing the process across your firm. Naturally, it goes without saying that ‘walking the talk’ must always start with your leadership team first.

Include diversity concepts and understanding into your induction and onboarding process and programmes. Make sure your values and policies around DEI are transparent and monitored.

Many firms are ahead of the curve and invest in external training to facilitate this process.

Behaviour in Your Firm

Once your staff are trained, they now understand how to include and engage with everyone in the team. Ensure everyone understands the desirable behaviours a diverse team exhibits and be clear about the importance of personal accountability to uphold your firm’s standards and process.

Open Communication Measure and Review

I have recently watched several stories on the news where certain individuals have felt unable to speak out about the uninclusive treatment they received in their workplace.

Don’t let this happen in your firm. Encourage and demand open communication. Develop an open culture with good communication channels.

Use your company-wide meetings, media, and newsletters to reinforce and remind how important DEI is in your firm.

Some partners we are speaking to about DEI also include DEI objectives and behaviours in their performance reviews.

Finally, consistently ask for input and feedback and act on it. Use employee surveys and your audit and benchmark your process against other firms.

What Next?

DEI strategy implementation is becoming more important and must form part of your recruitment strategy as you move forward. Clayton Legal is experienced in partnering with firms to ensure they have a diverse candidate pool to choose from.

Contact Clayton legal here if you would like support to develop your legal recruitment strategy or job search.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country
since 1999 and has built up an enviable reputation for trust and
reliability during that time. We have made over 5,000 placements from
Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal I.T.
personnel to Practice Managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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The 9 Ways a Diverse Workplace Will Enable Your Legal Team to Thrive

  • November 3, 2019

Before we look at ways to build a diverse workplace for your legal team, it’s worth thinking about what exactly we mean by a ‘diverse workplace’. There are so many buzz words around at the moment that it’s hard to know what they all mean – and if they communicate the same thing to everyone.

The ‘company culture’ that diversity and inclusion bring have gained momentum as de rigour in the world of work for candidates looking for employment. A recent workplace study found that 56% of employees valued a good company culture fit over salary.

Workplace diversity means employing people with a wide range of diverse characteristics. These could include age, gender, race, religion, cultural background, language, sexual orientation, education, ability, etc…the list goes on.

But it’s not just a fad – there are tangible benefits from offering a diverse workplace in the form of achieving higher productivity and profits for those who embrace workplace diversity in their law firm. And workplace diversity was one of the key trends last year – with no signs of stopping as we head towards 2020.

So, how will building a diverse workplace for your legal team encourage them to flourish? Here are 9 ways diversity can help your law firm achieve success:

1. Increases Creativity

Diversity is one of the critical ingredients for creativity. Diverse solutions come from having multiple options that are provided when you have a group of individuals with different thought patterns, world views and ideas.

In your legal team, having employees who are all very similar in terms of mindset and life experience inevitably leads to a smaller viewpoint overall.

Conversely, harnessing the personal creativity-diversity techniques of a group of people who recognise that everything can be viewed in multiple ways can lead to the generation of more creative ideas. If your Fee Earners and Solicitors come from diverse backgrounds and experiences, they will inevitably have a wider pot of knowledge from which to draw fresh ideas and solutions.

2. Allows Different Perspectives

Different perspectives are beneficial when it comes to strategic planning.

The ability to see things from alternative points of view will allow your firm to better judge which direction it should take in goal planning. Having varied options, and a clear idea of results from those options will enable your firm to decide which is the best route to take to achieve the required overall result.

3. Makes Problem-Solving Easier

Again, the scope provided by a diverse team makes it quicker to problem-solve. Because different individuals think in different ways, it’s possible to quickly come up with various potential solutions to a problem, from which a final decision can be made.

This Harvard Business Review report confirms that diverse teams solve problems faster than cognitively similar groups.

4. Encourages Innovation

A melting pot of novel world views can open doors to innovation. It can be inspiring to be part of a group that sees things in a different way and can come up with creative innovation that otherwise may not have been considered. The ability to think outside the box and from a different angle can enable diversity of ideas to come to light.

Additionally, in an environment where diversity and inclusion are nurtured, it’s likely that individuals are more inclined to voice their ideas without fear of reprisal or ridicule. For example, junior members of the firm such as your Legal Secretary or new Personal Injury Assistant are more enabled to come forward with ideas if they believe they will be listened to and encouraged to contribute.

In a forward-thinking legal workplace, you are more likely to achieve innovation through group participation – you never know what ideas your team may hit upon!

5. Engages Employees

The link between diversity and engagement is an obvious one. Where employees experience inclusivity they automatically feel engaged and loyal to their firm.

A law firm that has engaged employees will benefit from a strong team with shared values. Along with diverse and inclusive traits comes a nimble and agile team who can turn things around quickly, achieving more in less time and with access to multiple possible solutions – driving your firm forwards.

6. Improves Company Reputation

Your Employer Brand is how you are perceived by the outside world. To ensure your law firm is seen in a positive light as knowledgeable, reliable and at the top of your game, it’s essential to ensure that your employer brand is truly reflecting your worth and achievements.

Having happy and motivated employees helps your law firm retain its status and reputation. In addition to the better service they will inevitably provide your clients, their online chat and information – formal and informal – alongside word of mouth and personal recommendation to friends and family, will help position you as the go-to firm.

7. Achieves Better Retention

A law firm who offer a diverse and inclusive workplace is going to make their employees feel valued and appreciated as individuals. Happiness in work leads to better retention levels, with staff showing loyalty to a fair employer and staying with them to build their career. Employee turnover can be costly, so investing in your diverse team is pivotal in achieving better retention rates.

8. Attracts New Talent

Ultimately, a law firm with a great reputation for diversity and inclusion, who has engaged employees, good profit margins, innovative ideas, a superb reputation and high retention levels is bound to attract new talent to want to work there.

And if that isn’t enough to convince you…

9. Increases Profits

McKinsey & Co found that where companies had more diverse teams, they also performed better financially.

Diverse teams are better able to win new talent to the firm. This, in turn, helps to improve client service, employee satisfaction and make decision-making faster.

All this gives a forward-thinking, diverse law firm an advantage over competitors and enables them to achieve more profit as a result: a cycle of increasing returns.

Conclusion

Bringing a mix of skills and experiences to the workplace is good for business, providing an admirable company culture for your law firm. It’s worth noting that this starts at the top, too. Diversity at senior level is more likely to introduce new product innovations than are those with homogeneous “top teams.”

In the millennial age, offering diversity and a great company culture means harbouring an environment where all employees are respected and valued, where there is a vision shared and worked towards by everyone, and where communication, transparency and teamwork are paramount.

While I’m not suggesting that achieving excellent diversity across your law firm will be easy, it’s something to consider working towards. The benefits are multiple, and your employees will thank you for it – as will your Senior Partners when they see the benefits reflected in the firm’s reputation and profit margins.

Next Steps

If you’re reading this article because you are looking to build a better working environment for your legal team, call one of the Clayton Legal team on 01772 259 121 and let’s have a conversation to explore your options. With our help, the transition can be smoother and quicker.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year, download our latest guide here.

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Your Legal Team Growth: 5 Standout Ideas To Consider

  • April 25, 2019

Effective teamwork is crucial for any Legal firm.

Whether it’s an outstanding legal secretary, fielding calls and organising schedules and paperwork or a competent paralegal, interviewing witnesses and taking statements, everyone at your firm needs to be engaged and focused on the same goals to facilitate great results.

Finding the perfect blend of knowledge, skills and attitudes for your team can help you to get ahead of the competition and achieve your goals faster. However, before you can start reaping the rewards of a high-performing team, you’ll need to know how to set your employees up for success.

Here are just some of the ways that you can develop a more cohesive community within your legal firm.

Step 1: Recruit Based On Shared Values

A high-performing team is defined by a group of people who can support each other in reaching critical professional goals. Cohesiveness is essential to your team, which means you’ll need employees who can pull together for the greater good based on a clear understanding of what your firm wants to achieve.

This will happen more easily when your employees share your organisational values. When recruiting, build into your process, questions and exercises that explore a candidate’s beliefs.
This will give you an opportunity to test if their ethics match the firm’s.

When onboarding new employees, remember to explain why your legal firm’s values are important and provide them with examples of how you see these beliefs being expressed, so they have some ideas of what’s expected.

Being clear and consistent about your vision and values will give your team a sense of direction and some common objectives. Even if individual solicitors or legal teams are working on different cases, it’s important that everyone still understands the bigger picture.

Step 2: Embrace Diversity

Legal firms can often be attracted to a specific type of candidate. After all, you need someone with the requisite qualifications and experience who understands your field of law and shares your vision. However, this doesn’t mean that everyone in your team needs to have the same perspective. In fact, you can often accomplish more by embracing a wide selection of diverse viewpoints.

As the digital world continues to have more of an impact on every aspect of our society, it’s also increasingly critical to find candidates who have varied backgrounds and skills to offer. The more diversity you have in your team, the easier it will be to overcome complex challenges with ‘out of the box’ thinking. What’s more, diverse recruitment can help to improve your employer brand, which will help you to build your legal talent pipeline.

Step 3: Build a Supportive Environment

High-performing legal teams need to feel as though they can rely on their members to help them accomplish goals on behalf of the firm. A supportive team environment will not only enhance employee morale, promote peer-to-peer learning and lead to increased retention of your legal talent, but most importantly contribute positively to the quality and consistency of service that your firm provides its clients.

Creating a supportive environment within your firm begins by exploring the idea of psychological safety. Your team members need to know that they’re not going to be punished if their creativity and independent actions lead to mistakes.

Recognising and rewarding out-of-the-box thinking among your people and celebrating those who try new things is a great way to help your legal team flourish. By encouraging as well as modelling these behaviours, you’ll bring your firm’s vision and values to life.

Step 4: Give Employees Room to Thrive

Although effective teams need to collaborate to achieve their goals, they also need room to explore their unique skills. A high-performing legal team is bound to have people from a range of backgrounds, each with their own strengths and areas of expertise. Team leaders will know how to delegate tasks to take advantage of certain talents.

Make sure that you’re providing your staff members with the environment, resources and support they need to thrive both in a team environment and individually. For instance, it’s critical to ensure you develop the right atmosphere to enable the fee earners on your team to manage multiple caseloads.

Every member of your team will have their own strengths and development areas. Pairing the right people together will naturally lead to mentorship opportunities that supplement skill gaps as well as providing bonding opportunities.

Step 5: Focus on Great Leadership

Finally, in any legal firm, it’s crucial to make sure that your team has the right leadership to guide them towards success. Regardless of your area of law, your leadership team needs to be ready to inspire and motivate the rest of your legal team.

Leaders are the people who set the standard for the rest of the group, by showing them what “excellence” means to your organisation. According to the CIPD, the input of the right leader can be enough to improve workplace engagement by 39%.

Develop leadership strategies intended to keep employees motivated as they work together with their peers, and make sure to offer rewards and recognition for those that achieve great things in their roles.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year download our latest guide here.

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Lynn Sedgwick: Why the legal sector isn’t just focused on London

  • July 26, 2017

Our managing director, Lynn Sedgwick, has written a guest column for job site TotallyLegal. In it, she discusses the factors which are influencing the increase in regional demands for legal professionals in areas such as Yorkshire and the Midlands.

Below is an excerpt of the piece:

“Even as recently as five years ago the vast majority of employers were based in the capital with only smaller, independent firms having a physical presence in the wider regions of this country. But why has the shift taken place? There are a combination of contributors, perhaps most notably, the exorbitant cost of property in the capital. Firms are finding they can cut their rent costs in half by moving to other areas. In addition, many have struggled with a ‘churn’ of talent brought on by being based in a legal hotspot like London. And, by moving further afield, they hope to be able to retain their staff for longer. In purely geographical terms, being based somewhere like Birmingham, or Leeds, for example, means firms are better positioned to serve the needs of their clients, wherever they are located. There’s also the matter of Brexit. The wider uncertainty this has caused in markets across the UK favours the legal sector and drives greater activity, which increases demand for services and therefore specialists across the country.”

You can read the full column on the TotallyLegal website here.

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Clayton Legal in Totally Legal

  • May 2, 2017

Lynn Sedgwick, Managing Director at Clayton Legal, recently featured in Totally Legal on a different route into the profession: the paralegal apprenticeship. Here’s what she had to say.

If one thing is clear, it’s that university is no longer a requirement for aspiring lawyers. Calls to improve social mobility, in what has long been seen as a highly selective profession, have led many firms to review their recruitment processes – which have been criticised for favouring students from Russell Group universities – and explore options to improve their apprenticeship programmes.

The introduction of apprenticeship programmes

In moves championed by the government, Eversheds Sutherland, Addleshaw Goddard, and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer have all introduced apprenticeship programmes which offer A-Level students an alternative route into the legal profession. Indeed, in a related, but arguably more radical change to increase route into the profession, the Solicitors Regulation Authority, is now allowing individuals to be admitted as solicitors under its “equivalent means” system, provided that they have the right quality and quantity of experience.

Addleshaw Goddard’s new solicitor apprenticeship programme, which will be run in conjunction with BPP University Law School, will see apprentices become part of the firm’s transaction services team (TST) after just six years. The TST – which was established to help reduce the administrative burden on associates, allowing them to focus on client-facing matters – has grown steadily since its launch and now has a total of 134 paralegals. Paralegals in the TST complete complex administrative and process driven work, and play a crucial role in an increasingly competitive, and cost driven legal marketplace.

The programme combines funded part-time study and in-house training, with apprentices rotating across a number of practice areas. After completing the six-year programme, successful apprentices will be awarded a LLB (Hons) degree, and after assessment by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, will also qualify as a solicitor.

Apprentices get the chance to immediately experience the workplace

Commenting on the new apprenticeships, Mike Potter, Partner and Head of the Transaction Services Team said, “The solicitor programme is standout in giving the apprentices immediate experience of the workplace, and is an excellent alternative to the traditional university route to qualification. It will shape the future of careers in the legal sector.”

These comments echo a consensus which is slowly, but steadily, being adopted by many leading legal practices. Law firms have long endeavoured to increase female representation within their organisations, however if practices want to feel the true benefits of a diverse culture, they need to embrace initiatives to improve social mobility.

With research from Byfield Consultancy finding that more than 80 % of legal trainees at the top 50 UK firms were from Russell Group universities, it is clear that the profession has a long way to go. However, apprenticeship schemes such as Addleshaw Goddard’s six year paralegal programme, and Eversheds Sutherland’s level seven trailblazer initiative, are a positive sign of shifting attitudes towards qualification routes within the profession. Paralegal apprenticeships provide aspiring legal professionals with the opportunity to gain experience and a qualification simultaneously, the pioneering firms championing them will undoubtedly reap the benefits of a more diverse and engaged workforce.

For more insights from the Clayton Legal team visit our blog. And if you’re looking for a career move take a look at our vacancies here.

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Why every law firm needs to embrace diversity

  • April 24, 2017

Hardly a day seems to go by within the legal profession without some piece of publicity about, or new initiative around, workforce diversity. But while almost everyone would agree that this trend is a good thing and that the profession should offer equal opportunity to all whatever their gender, social background, ethnicity, etc, how many of us really understand that there is also a compelling business case shoring up altruistic motives?

The reason why many of the very largest firms have been devoting so much time, effort and cash to building more diverse workforces is not because they have experienced some unexpected attack of niceness, but because they grasped some while ago that this makes good business sense.

The business case for diversity

In the days when the great majority of customers for legal services were white, middle class males, who had attended similar schools and universities it may have been sensible if many law firm partners looked exactly the same. But the world has changed. And when partners at major firms found themselves in meetings with potential clients from every corner of the globe and from backgrounds as far away from the English private school system as it’s possible to get, they quickly got the message that the cosy, old arrangements of the past might no longer be fit for purpose.

However the business principles behind diversity are not simply the province of the ‘Magic Circle’ and its peers. Firstly, no organisation can genuinely understand and respond to what motivates its customer base unless it mirrors it, at least to some extent. Secondly, diversity is often the source of new and innovativeideas and approaches – something that every firm needs to embrace in this age where traditional ways of operating can be rendered obsolete virtually overnight. And finally, ignoring the potential of diversity and simply recruiting the same people from the same places you always have is transparently self-defeating. The best talent is the best talent, no matter what it looks or sounds like or where it happened to be educated.

Achieving workforce diversity and accessing the commercial benefits that it can bring does not have to be the daunting challenge it is often portrayed as. An open mind and a willingness to look beyond the obvious to what an individual can really offer can achieve an awful lot without any investment in glossy, formal programmes or initiatives. And once the diversity gets started its momentum can end up doing your job for you. As the barrister and diversity campaigner, Miranda Brawn puts it, the key is for individuals from what might be regarded as disadvantaged groups to see role models across the profession in firms of all sizes. Because if they can see people like themselves in senior positions, the brightest and best will do everything they need to do to emulate them. And that can only be good for talented lawyers and the firms that will gain commercial advantage by hiring and developing them.

For more insights from the team take a look at our other blog posts. And if you’d like to discuss your hiring requirement speak to us today.

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