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How do I figure out which law firms value diversity and inclusion?

updated on 24 October 2023

Dear Oracle

Law firms are always saying how diverse and inclusive they are but how do I decide which firm is the right fit for me?

The Oracle replies

Reading time: three minutes

Diversity. Diversity. Diversity. You’ve probably heard that word so many times from law firms or seen the word plastered on their brochures.

It’s true that diversity and inclusion (D&I) is the talk of the legal town and is often highlighted in bold on law firms’ sleek websites and brochures. Due to the intense way this word is pushed and emphasised by numerous firms, it’s hard for aspiring lawyers to distinguish between the firms and chambers that truly embody diversity, and the ones that are merely using diversity as a buzzword for marketing purposes.

Actions speak louder than words

This is the concept you should apply when deciding which firm is the right fit for you. An aspiring lawyer must wear many hats and one of these hats is that of a meticulous detective; it’s important to pay attention to what a firm is doing, rather than what it’s saying.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which firms are introducing long-term diversity initiatives and sticking by them?
  • Are there graduate programmes to cater specifically for underrepresented groups?
  • What are the retention rates of Black and ethnic minority candidates?
  • What’s the demographic of lawyers at senior levels?
  • Does the firm have a variety of networks to support its employees from various backgrounds?

If you can’t answer these questions about your dream firm then you must dig for this information. If you still can’t find anything then you have your answer. Try to avoid just looking at the recent actions of law firms and search instead for a pattern of behaviour (eg, has the firm only just started introducing D&I initiatives or is this something they’ve always done?).

To find out more about which firm is the right fit for you, read this LCN Says: 'How to find the right firm for your career and disability’.

However, if a firm is working to become more diverse, it has the potential of being a good fit for you and this is a good sign it’s forward-thinking.

Here are two main factors to consider when handpicking which firms to apply to.

Talent pool

It’s important for a law firm’s talent pool to include a range of candidates including those from underrepresented backgrounds. By fostering an inclusive workplace that attracts Black and ethnic minority candidates, people with disabilities and individuals from the LGBTQ+ community, for example, the firm will attract and cultivate a diverse atmosphere.

Recruitment tools

The second important step is how the individuals in the talent pool are recruited. Blind recruitment and contextual recruitment tools are on the rise, with firms introducing them into their recruitment practices. For example, many firms use upReach’s contextual recruitment system REALrating, which allows employers to identify hidden talent and monitor socioeconomic data. The system has been designed to contextualise academic performance and highlight candidates’ potential to succeed. By working with upReach, firms can identify applicants who’ve achieved against the odds. Firms using these types of system are clearly trying to widen access to the profession by expanding their reach to candidates they may otherwise have missed due to old, restrictive recruitment practices.

It’s also worth noting here that upReach works with more than 3,000 students in collaboration with universities and employers with the aim of supporting disadvantaged students from across the UK to realise their potential and succeed professionally. With more than 650 events a year, the charity provides access to a range of opportunities to enable these students to build their networks, understanding and skills. Finding out whether any of your shortlisted firms are working with upReach could be a good starting point in understanding how much the firm values a diverse and inclusive workforce.

On top of this, how firms accommodate reasonable adjustments – whether yours or someone else’s – during the recruitment process and beyond will also give a good indication as to how inclusive and genuine they are.

There are inclusive firms out there but, as with most elements of your journey into law, it requires research and networking. The words on firms’ websites aren’t enough to go by, so find out what firms are actually doing – consider asking firm representatives at law fairs how they find working at their firms, speak to them about the firm’s D&I and identify whether you can see yourself working there.

Read this Feature: 'Black candidates share legal recruitment process’.

For more on what solicitors’ firms, chambers and legal education providers are doing to improve diversity and inclusion within the legal profession, head to LawCareers.Net’s Diversity hub, sponsored by Gowling WLG (UK) LLP.