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In-house analysis: How can lawyers work together to increase mobility and diversity? Julian Sayarer talks to Chris White, founder of Aspiring Solicitors, Chris Benn, lawyer at Kemp Little, Barry Matthews, an in-house lawyer with ITV, and Toby Hornett, legal director at Canon – Europe about the role in‑house teams play in promoting diversity and access to the legal profession.
Mobility and diversity
The legal profession is inclined to see itself as casting light on complex affairs in need of scrutiny. Lawyers are themselves only spokespersons for different interpretations of the law – legal advocates for the rules of society as have been provided by case law and statute. Overseeing often complex and multi – faceted issues, the law must stand remote, impartial and all – but undisputed.
Such a vantage point is not always the best position from which to look inwards on oneself. Lawyers can often look, think and act alike – there will often be more Johns or Davids among a firm’s partners than there are women or those from ethnic minorities. Of course not all differences are visible – the names of schools, universities, hobbies or holidays can create a sharp but often thinly disguised social divide which can exclude would – be lawyers from different social backgrounds. The concept of “access to justice” is generally understood to refer to those in need of justice, but the notion also reminds us of the need to pay attention to those who get to practice it also.
Seeking meaningful change
The profession has, however, begun to devote increasing energy to these issues. One organisation that aims to break barriers and promote opportunities for in-house lawyers is the Aspire Network, set up by Sophie Gould from LexisNexis. Chris Benn, a lawyer with Kemp Little in London, also sits on an advisory board for Aspire and explains its core aim in simple terms:
“The group was set
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Since joining LexisNexis in 2009 Sophie has worked on developing our legal and business content for the in-house legal community. She also runs various networking and mentoring groups for in-house lawyers and works with schools to promote social mobility within the legal profession.
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