Historically, the London legal profession has attracted lawyers from traditional educational backgrounds. These tend to be students from middle/upper class backgrounds who have attended Russell Group Universities.
Baker & McKenzie LLP is an international law firm with 68 offices in 40 countries. Since 2007, the London office has actively sought to draw on its international and multicultural ethos to buck the above trend, with particular emphasis on increasing the number of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) trainee solicitors.
In 2007, an analysis of Baker & Mckenzie’s diversity statistics showed that their BME statistics at the Trainee Graduate Recruitment level were abysmal – only 4% of our trainee population came from a BME background. BakerEthnicity, a subgroup of their Diversity Committee, in partnership with the Graduate Recruitment team, decided to tackle this issue head-on
Baker & McKenzie had three aims:
- To revamp their Recruitment Process to ensure they really were providing a level playing field.
- To develop relationships with organisations that could put them in touch with a broader range of potential recruits.
- To develop mentoring and developmental initiatives aimed at school pupils. Their research showed them that they had to widen their focus to include lawyers of the future, not just students already studying law.
What they did
- They established relationships with student groups and societies, such as university African Caribbean societies, which helped to increase their exposure to BME students.
- Baker & McKenzie were the first law firm in London to remove names from applications forms – this ensures that people are not biased for/against a candidate on the basis of their name.
- They introduced an Associate Interview Panel to widen the number of people the candidates saw. Up to 2007, only partners were included in the interview process.
- They introduced an interactive group exercise to broaden the range of skills tested through their assessment process and to help to ensure that they select the strongest talent into their trainee population.
- They created a Diversity Contact Network aimed at allowing potential recruits to question people within the firm about any diversity-related issues. Over thirty people from all levels and departments in the office signed up to become ‘listening ears’ on issues ranging from ethnicity and social mobility, through to gender and age.
The impact of the initiative
What the statistics show:
- BME statistics at the trainee level have increased from 4% in 2006, to 21% in 2010.
- BME statistics at the partnership level have increased from 2% in 2006, to 4% in 2010.
- On average, at least 30% of Baker & McKenzie’s summer vacation scheme places are taken by BME
The Diversity organisation partnership activity:
- Baker & McKenzie now have solid partnerships with a number of organisations and schools.
- They host six open days per year and actively participate in a broad range of events with these partner organisations.
- Over 30 members of staff volunteer their time to present to students and school children.
- They have over 30 mentors via the Social Mobility Foundation. One of baker & McKenzie’s partners is on the Board, and an associate is on the Advisory Committee.
The BakerEthnicity group goes from strength to strength. They are now planning to replicate the process used for increasing trainee BME numbers and apply it to their business and secretarial services population.