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I don’t look very diverse at first glance – a middle aged, middle class white male law firm partner. However, growing up as a gay teenager in the 1980s made me aware of how being different can affect your life choices and aspirations.
When I joined my first firm as a trainee in March 1995, the idea of being open about my sexuality did not occur to me and there were certainly no networks to join or senior role models to emulate. This was no reflection on my firm at the time. It was just unheard of anywhere in the legal profession.
We’ve come a long way. But there is more to do.
Having recently been involved in putting together our firm’s annual global Diversity Report, I wanted to share three common diversity themes emerging across our platform of 47 offices on five continents.
Ensuring each office recognises the diversity challenges in its home jurisdiction or city. Is it in an office in which women need to be more visible at a senior level? Does the office need a high profile LGBT champion, whether L, G, B, T or straight themselves? Who are the people who are most passionate about a particular issue? Whether a trainee or a senior equity partner, with the right support, they can lead the office to achieve more collectively.
Ensuring we learn from each other. When budgets are finite, our best resource is each other. If the Sydney office has a great mental health diversity programme and the London office has made huge strides in LGBT recognition, why not get both offices on a conference call and let them work out how to translate great practice from one office to another? This won’t always work given cultural differences but you might have fun trying!
Ensuring we do better each year. That doesn’t just mean statistics (although important) but on the workplace atmosphere. When you’re part of an international platform, finding common goals is difficult. Don’t use that as an excuse not to try. Are there organisations that can support your diversity aims, Stonewall being a key example? Is there a client you can talk to about your diversity ideas? Some clients will be more advanced than your firm; others will be just starting out on their diversity journey. Whatever stage they’ve reached, I’ve always found that these conversations are greeted enthusiastically.
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