milky bar

Beyond the pale.

A partner at HFW has been sent to do penance in diversity training after making a joke to do with race.

The solicitor landed in hot chocolate in February when the international shipping and insurance firm celebrated the US’s Black History Month. HFW’s Race & Ethnicity Network marked the occasion by handing out bars of Tony's Chocolonely, accompanied with a leaflet about the group, to staff in several offices.

In Dubai, where the chocs were distributed by a black employee and an Asian colleague, a partner was unable to resist remarking to another partner, "I'm presuming they don't have Milkybar". (Milkybar being “the all-white chocolate bar", noted a helpful source.)

A member of business services who overheard the comment flagged it with the network, which elevated it to management, which duly instructed the "mortified" partner to take diversity training.

"During one of the events taking place across our international network in February to celebrate US Black History Month, a partner made a comment that was not consistent with the firm's culture or values", a spokesperson for HFW told RollOnFriday.

"This was reported to our Race and Ethnicity Network and relayed to senior management, who commenced an internal investigation. The partner apologised unreservedly to the individuals concerned, and has undertaken diversity training. HFW is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive working environment, and we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind."

Talking about race has proved a minefield for lawyers and firms on more than one occasion, even when they have been specifically addressing the issue. Last year, Gowling WLG apologised after the firm set up special screensavers to mark Black History Month in Canada which featured an employee recalling how she once met a black man who was "very nice and extremely polite".

The year before, Freshfields' Senior Partner Edward Braham was criticised by staff for referring to "Blacks" in an email expressing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. It transpired that he had crafted his message with the help of a group of black partners, but their involvement didn’t prevent internal blowback.

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Morris Marina 20 May 22 09:10

Bad, but not as bad as what happened at Freeths

Staunch Freeths Defender 20 May 22 09:41

Should Freeths really be criticised?  

After all it was just a Partner telling an overtly racist joke at a Partners Conference, with not a single Partner challenging the content at the time and then a different Partner describing himself as the Head of Porn and showing a photoshopped image of a young staff member’s head on Pamela Anderson’s body? 

Doesn’t that happen at every normal functioning law firm? 


Anon 20 May 22 09:44

To be honest not surprising at HFW. I recall the London shipping dept sat on the 4th floor being predominantly all white  

ComeAtMeBro 20 May 22 10:16

To anon at 09:44 - the country is 85% white so a predominantly all white team should come as no surprise. Thank you for your casual racism though in assuming that when us whiteys get together nothing but racism follows. I guess if HFW had only made a few more token hires this wouldn't have happened. 

When will people realise that diversity only works one way. They demand your obedience, they demand your apologies, they demand your respect (without demonstrating any qualities deserving of it), and you had better not anger the diversity gods otherwise you will be sent for 're-education'. An absolute joke of a country this is becoming.

NaylandS 20 May 22 10:27

On the one hand, it's not a bad off-the-cuff joke, and the process by which it resulted in an investigation sounds genuinely sinister.

On the other hand, the only correct comment when confronted with a bar of Tony's Chocolonely is to ask where on Earth they got such a stupid name from.

MW 20 May 22 11:57

I think if the comment needs to be seen in the context in which it was made. HFW is a firm with exceptionally poor diversity in both gender and ethnicity. Two, likely white male partners, making a remark at the expense of two ethnic minorities trying to do something nice and inclusive … doesn’t really seem like a partnership with inclusivity as a priority. Quick slap on the wrist for the partner to tick the box and then off you go again. 

Paul 20 May 22 12:31

"A member of business services who overheard the comment flagged it with the network, which elevated it to management, which duly instructed the "mortified" partner to take diversity training".

Is this an updated version of the nursery rhyme about the old lady who swallowed a fly?


Anonymous 20 May 22 12:33

@ MW - In Dubai, I expect being white would you in the minority. I like concept that inclusivity is reserved for those who kow tow to the current dogma.  Think like how I say you must think or we will send to you be re-educated. Straight out of the Stalin / Mao / Pol Pot playbook. 

MW 20 May 22 12:38

@12:33 - yes in Dubai being white probably does make you a minority. However, being white in the HFW Dubai office (where the comment was made) probably makes you in the majority. 

Apologies, I can’t understand the rest of your post. 

Hackaforte 20 May 22 14:09

I'm impressed - past 2pm and nobody's Godwined yet, although Anon @1233 came dangerously close. 

anon 20 May 22 16:03

There was recently a thing about how Tony's chocolate probably used slave labour in part of the supply chain so they were handing out chocolate to celebrate black history month that could have actually have been made by black slaves...

Anonymous 20 May 22 17:12

Do you know what's actually mad?

People wearing shirts made out of cotton grown and picked by actual slaves in Turkmenistan or by Uighurs in slave camps in China handing out chocolate made from cocoa pods picked by children with machetes in Ghana disciplining someone who makes a poor taste joke as if it were "racism" (a term so utterly over-used as to be meaningless). 

Back to white history year then, or should we just, y'know, have "history"?

Anonymous 21 May 22 17:28

What’s funny in all of these diversity fuck ups, is that it’s clear that whilst law firms will happily pay lip service to black lives matters, or nutcase trans ideology, no one but no one says anything about class. Surely one of the biggest determinants of outcome in life is being born into poverty regardless of your race/ethnicity/sex (sorry “gender”)/sexuality. This never seems to get anything like the same attention as other areas of EDI - why? Because it’s the most intractable area of inequality and is growing worse and can’t be remedied by sending round chocolate bars or signing up to membership of extremely dodgy LGBTQI groups. 

Anonymous 22 May 22 09:08

21 May 22 @ 17.28 - I agree that class is the largest area for diversity improvement, but it isn't intractable. The reason it doesn't get more attention is because to a large extent the diversity debate has focused on perceived gender representation, and the people focusing that attention are posh themselves. 

anon 22 May 22 09:33

Anonymous 21 May 22 17:28: so true. And the class issue is so easily resolved. Just recruit more people with names like Hannah and Craig, and fewer called Isabella and George.

Anonymous 22 May 22 19:34

Whilst the class issue is MASSIVE in law firms (and the city in general), it's not an easy win for firms.

Visible diversity is better for marketing.

There is no actual push towards some kind of real equality/equity position just a token effort to be seen to be doing the right thing for marketing purposes.

How many firms have partner promotions with '50% of our partners are female" or similar. Most? 

It wouldn't work with "50% of our partners are working class".

Anonymous 23 May 22 11:17

"The reason it doesn't get more attention is because to a large extent the diversity debate has focused on perceived gender representation, and the people focusing that attention are posh themselves"

Yes, it's hard to do much about it because it's just not very exciting or exotic.

Doing BAME empowerment is great fun, because you can get a speaker in to read out Martin Luther King quotes while you bask in the reflected glories of a previous generation's achievements, then put on some funky R&B beats to vibe to while patting yourself on the back for the latest half-baked token hiring campaign (this is "Our Time", again).

The LGBTQIAETC stuff is similarly fun, because you slap rainbow flags all over stuff, get some fabulously dressed speaker in to tell you about how brave they were when they came out as Gay and/or a Woman, while you feel smug about how sexually liberal you are compared to your parents and how fantastic it was for your generation to bring in Equal Marriage (don't say David Cameron while you do it).

But what are you going to do with a Class night? One doesn't want to be seen with untrendy oiks from Macclesfield. They don't have cool funky music to listen to. There's no nice canapes from the Black Country. There isn't a nice flag that I can spam as an emoji on LinkedIn. They aren't exotic and special and novel; they're just sweaty, uncultured, poor versions of us. Nobody wants to be seen with that kind of company.

There's just no clout to be had.

Anonymous 23 May 22 22:17

@Anonymous 21 May 22 17:28

It seems that most law firms consider recruiting from both Oxford and Cambridge to be proof of diversity. And then they conclude they kept it classy, problem solved.

anon 25 May 22 06:27

@anon 17.28

That's exactly why Marxists basically foresaw identity politics.

The woke, wealthy corporates are extremely happy to jump on the bandwagon which encourages working class people to identify and divide themselves according to race or some other irrelevant characteristic - rather than finding class solidarity.

Give people a few chocolate bars to hand out as a gesture of identity consciousness, and class consciousness which might cause them to question far more fundamental inequalities is entirely forgotten.

Anonymous 25 May 22 13:18

@11.17 absolutely all of that tbh. Poor people need better PR, but who is going to do it?!

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