Magic circle firm commits to social mobility objectives

updated on 26 July 2023

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Magic circle firm Slaughter and May has set social mobility targets, aiming to increase the representation of lawyers and other employees from lower socioeconomic backgrounds (LSEB) in the firm.

With a comprehensive action plan in place, it’s become the first major law firm to commit to such targets. Its aim is to increase the proportion of lawyers from LSEB backgrounds to 15% by 2023, with plans also in place to increase the representation of LSEB individuals within the firm’s total population to 25% and the business services population to 40% by 2023.

The firm’s new targets build on its existing work over the past decade to improve access to the legal profession, including its Lead into Law and Law Springboard programmes, as well as the financial support it offers candidates via its scholarship scheme.

The Bridge Group, an expert not-for-profit social equality consultancy, partnered with Slaughter and May to conduct a workforce analysis, using data from across a 10-year period as part of its process to establish the most appropriate “ambitious but realistic targets”.

This work showed that:

  • the firm has a disclosure rate of socio-economic background (SEB) data among its employees of more than 70%, with the high figure showing that the data underlying the targets and the progress being measured is robust and reliable;
  • progression, retention and performance of individuals from LSEB in the firm’s lawyer population is the same as their peers from other socio-economic backgrounds; and
  • the firm’s business services LSEB population (at 34.7%) is already close to the national census figure of 39%.

By tracking the socio-economic makeup of Slaughter and May’s workforce over a long period of time, the firm has “confidence” in the data it’s using to “set these public targets and measure [its] progress”, Deborah Finkler, managing partner at the firm, explains. Finkler adds: “This focus and transparency means we can hold ourselves accountable and sends a clear message about our intentions to enhance and maintain a diverse workforce.”

Alongside the targets set, the firm’s action plan has been put in place to support its LSEB representation goals and includes:

  • voluntary social mobility-related pay gap reporting as part of the firm’s annual pay gap report; and
  • introducing a new financial bursary scheme for selected individuals aged between 17 and 18 who are interested in a career in law, to “support those where the financial burden of university may be a barrier to attending university”.

Nik Miller, chief executive of the Bridge Group, said that he hopes Slaughter and May’s work in this area will “inspire others to follow suit”.

While Steve Cooke, a senior partner at Slaughter and May, commented: “We want to be more intentional in our continued search for talent to ensure we bring the best people into our business. The targets we’ve announced today, together with others we’ve set in relation to gender and ethnicity, are part of an overall approach to ensure we’re reaching the widest possible talent pool.”