wombles

"Womble Bond Dickinson, pasty are we."


Womble Bond Dickinson has been criticised for boasting that its latest trainee cohort proves its dedication to diversity.

Last week the firm posted a snap on social media of its 27 new trainees arranged on the lobby staircase.

"Whilst it might not necessarily be apparent from the photograph, 8% of this particular trainee cohort identify as being from an ethnic minority", claimed the firm's Head of Recruitment on LinkedIn. "An inclusive and diverse culture is very important to the firm", she added.


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BAME individuals were confused as they squinted at the sea of smiling white faces. "They’re all Caucasian", pointed out DWF solicitor Bushra Nawaz. "Did no one BAME make an application or meet the criteria?"

"Look at all that diversity!" commented Moses Masih-Rogers, a recruitment consultant. "Training contract or casting for Get Out 2", asked Wajid Pervez.

One of the photographed trainees stepped into the breach on behalf of his embattled HR team (trainee tip: you don't have to do that). "I'm in this photo and can vouch for WBD's commitment to diversity in all forms", posted Joshua S. "Whilst being non-BAME, I'm strongly from a working class background and none of my parents attended Uni. Definitely makes me certain that WBD do spread the net far and wide".

After being contacted by Lee, Nawaz posted a gracious follow-up note that she was "sure everyone in this picture has their own story on how they successfully got to training contract stage", and that "people’s backgrounds can be hugely diverse ie working class, sex" and "that’s what sets everyone apart".

Others were less forgiving. "What a tragic play", said a source. "If you have to justify diversity like this then you may as well give up already".

RollOnFriday asked WBD whether anyone at the firm can 'identify' as being from an ethnic minority, in which case it should be able to reach its 22% target for 2021 with ease. The firm did not respond.

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Comments

Um 16 October 20 09:07

How many parents does Joshua have, exactly?  Perhaps WBD missed another diversity story there. 

Anon 16 October 20 09:10

The SRA should mandate that all law firms recruit a minimum of 35% BAME trainees as A&O are aiming to do.  This is the only way to bring about racial equality in the long term.

 

 

Onanymous 16 October 20 09:12

Diversity of ideas and opinions matters.

Stop counting faces based on skin colour.

Martin Luther King 16 October 20 09:21

It doesn't help that the LPC is structurally racist. 

"Approximately 66% of white students successfully completed the LPC in the period in comparison with approximately 48% of Asian/Asian British students and 35% of black students" (SRA Authorisation and Monitoring Report, 2018).

Sort it out SRA!

Bleh 16 October 20 09:21

It's "optics" isn't it.

The addition of "I know it doesn't look like we are diverse because everyone in the photo looks white but we're actually *quite* diverse because our level of BME trainees is 30% below the national average" was unwise and drew attention to the fact. 

Bears all the hallmarks of someone being told to do something - anything - that demonstrates diversity without actually thinking about it. Might not a series of individual character profiles been better? Obviously much more time-consuming, and you would need the consent and input from the people being profiled, but it would've come across a lot better.

Anon 16 October 20 09:22

It’s just a meaningless PR trope.  What does “being committed to diversity” actually mean in practice?  That less good applicants from ethnic backgrounds get priority over better qualified applicants who are white, where this issue arises?    No?  Ah, that might  risk damaging the quality of legal work that could be billed and we can’t have that.  Ok, so what then?   One week a year of having videos in the lobby about black authors (never mentioned again for the other 51 weeks) and increasing the budget for the monthly diversity drinks trolley?  
 

How does the firm actually effect change and social engineering if it says it’s committed to ensuring ethnic diversity?   Does it do this at partner level?  How many of the equity partners are non white male?   How many clients does the firm act for who have all white  male or predominantly white male boards?  Or does diversity not matter at the top?

Also, as an aside to show how meaningless PR language can be, how can people’s backgrounds be “hugely diverse in terms of sex“ (by which BD mean gender I assume rather than sexual history)?  Is there huge diversity biological diversity in the human species when it comes to gender?

 This is the problem.  You get these lazy tropes trotted out by firms who are terrified in the current tyrannical climate to be seen as anything other than woked up to the eyeballs and it leads to embarrassing errors like the one in this article.  

 

Lydia 16 October 20 09:23

It was a bit of a pointless bad PR thing for them to do. Some parts of the country are basically almost all white. 98% of Northumberland where I am from is white whereas where I live in my London borough most people are not white and I am in the minority.

 

I believe lawyers are over represented in terms of Jewish and non white people if you compare numbers to the general population of the UK.

Anon 16 October 20 09:24

MLK, where is your evidence that the reason behind the stat you provide is institutional racism?  You have to actually drill down a bit and not just skim the surface with lazy claims.  
 

By way of an example to show your flawed approach: The majority of the prison population is Male.  Does this mean that the justice system is inherently prejudiced against white men?  

Notmetoo 16 October 20 09:30

Yet another example of virtue signalling from law firms backfiring. Constantly categorising people as belonging to a particular identity or group and focussing in how they are different can be divisive. We are all the same. Give every sex race creed color and religion equal opportunity but making a big point about how progressive and liberal you are in so doing is just patronising self righteousness 

Anonymous 16 October 20 09:41

Well regardless of the diversity point, getting 27 trainees (in to 20-25 year old age group) huddled together on a staircase without face masks during a global pandemic isn't really very well thought out either... My firm wouldn't dare get us all together like that in these times, for safety reasons, regardless of the 'workplace exemption'!

WBD seem to care more for their image than the health of the trainees or their families (especially if they are living with someone who is vulnerable)...  

Anon 16 October 20 09:51

@09:04 Yes another own goal.  No social distancing so a breach of rules in the pandemic.  Why do it and then publicise it is astonishingly stupid.  

Anonymous 16 October 20 09:57

It might look like 27 white peoples standing on a white stair case but if you zoom in to the bottom left there is what looks like a Dragon Tree (Morocco) and top left a Kentia Palm (indigenous Oz) . Everyone knows WBD (and the legacy firms) count plants in a their stats. I reckon Dragon and Big Ken will do well at the firm

Anony-mouse 16 October 20 10:32

If they hadn’t have attempted to appear ‘right on’, aside from the social distancing fail, the lack of diversity probably would’ve been ignored.
 

Lee’s tripe-post just screams: ‘Oh shit, I’ve only just realised all our new trainees are white. Time for some spin!’

Anonymous 16 October 20 11:03

Rumour has it one well known London chambers specifically encouraged all their Jewish members to identify as BAME on the last circulated Bar Council/BSB (not sure which) diversity questionnaire, to avoid the shame of being 100% white.

Anon888 16 October 20 11:13

I'm more concerned that the two male trainees at the front have both buttons done up on their suit jackets. The profession is doomed!

pedro883 16 October 20 11:42

Utter rubbish from Martin Luther King.  How can an exam be structurally racist ?  And how would you change that - give BAME candidates a 20% head start ?  That would be structurally racist. 

Demitrius 16 October 20 11:47

Excellent!

Why would this trigger anyone? Diversity is diversity, unless you subscribe to the 'woke' definition of diversity meaning a minority of white Brits..

K&E 16 October 20 11:58

@Anon 16 October 20 09:51 - I think it would be more accurate to say it is astonishingly stupid to presume that this photo was taken during the pandemic... surely that thought would have crossed your mind?

Anon 16 October 20 12:13

Why did the post even need to be about diversity?  How about just posting something welcoming the new intake of trainees and wishing them all the best?

Anon 16 October 20 12:17

It is the maths of this that bothers me. How do you get to an 8% share of 27 trainees (even allowing for rounding) without slicing and dicing (and slicing and dicing trainees is I assume something that is frowned upon at WBD)? Even assuming a couple of trainees were out that day (or working) and missed the staircase photocall, the numbers wouldn't work - you would need a minimum of 36 trainees of whom 3 were identifying as being from an ethnic majority for this to make any sense. Or for there to be 2 minority trainees plus at least one ringer, perhaps a paralegal who just happened to be walking up or down the stairs minding his or her own business at the time...

Anon 16 October 20 12:24

So you’re saying the picture is from 2019?  In which case how the hell is it relevant when we are heading to 2021?

Martin Luther King 16 October 20 12:44

Everyone accepts that there is no inherent difference in ability between black people and white people.  The main reason for the stark difference in LPC pass rates between these two groups is obviously structural racism, which is created by white people themselves.

The only long term fix to achieve diversity in the legal profession is: a) to have mandatory quotas for BAME trainees (as A&O and HL already do, at 35% ands 30% respectively); and b) to structure the examination system in such a way that recognises the structural racism that BAME candidates have had to face.

Biden for President! 16 October 20 13:15

I'm actually having a breakdown over this!

This can't be happening. My mum came into my room to bring me a plate of chicken nuggets and I literally screamed at her and hit the plate of chicken nuggets out of her hand. She started yelling and swearing at me and I slammed the door on her. I’m so distressed right now I don’t know what to do. I didn’t mean to do that to my mum but I’m literally in shock from this story. I feel like I’m going to explode. This can’t be happening. I don’t want to believe the world is so corrupt. I want a future to believe in. I cannot fucking deal with this right now. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. This is outrageous!

The Pin 16 October 20 13:24

@Martin Luther King - not sure if you're joking but how is the LPC structurally racist?

I'm black, grew up extremely poor/went to a crap school, and managed to get to a top 10 university and a TC offer from a US firm.

All but one of my marks were graded as distinctions on the LPC. I have many other black friends with similar backgrounds and marks.

I feel like the only form of discrimination on the LPC is geared towards diligence/intellect rather than your race.

 

Paul 16 October 20 13:37

"Everyone accepts that there is no inherent difference in ability between black people and white people"

But the pass marks for the LPC suggest there might be a difference when it comes to the people choosing to sit this exam.

Statistics might give cause for enquiry, but they don't prove anything in themselves.

Anon 16 October 20 14:12

How ironic that someone posting as MLK is advocating that LPC exams should be judged not by the content of the answers, but by the colour of the candidate's skin.

bananaman 16 October 20 14:39

As with lots of things, the fix with this is to reform and invest in primary and secondary education so people are not disadvantaged by their school environment. That plus limiting university places for private school pupils to 10% should do the trick. 

Am I missing something? 16 October 20 14:53

Aside from poor maths, a clear lack any ethnic diversity in that silly picture, or the fact that the Womble trainees all look very similar; I think everyone has missed the best part. "Whilst being non-BAME...". Joshua, it's also known as being "white". "Non-BAME"? LMAO.

Anon 16 October 20 15:01

@MLK - in my cohort the majority of students on the LPC who identified as BAME were international students and did not speak English as a first language - their grades suffered as a result of that and not because they were from a BAME background.

Anon 16 October 20 16:52

It's obviously a photo from a previous intake but the fact they've publicised it is truly astonishing.

I've counted about 15 Britneys but not 1 Babatunde. 

pedro883 16 October 20 17:08

MLK you are full of crap.  I am black and I am successful.  You probably didn't stop to think that.  And I have had my fair share of knock backs.  But I don't start bleating about structural racism when life chins me.  I just get back up and get on with it.  Have some dignity, and stop trotting out meaningless tropes, you're just embarrassing yourself.  

Anon 16 October 20 17:30

MLK - “The main reason for the stark difference in LPC pass rates between these two groups is obviously structural racism”.  

If it’s so obvious where is your evidence?   You have failed to demonstrate that your claim is true, and haven’t pointed to evidence other than that black students do less well in exams.  There will be many factors that cause this - are you actually claiming that tutors and examination markers actively mark down black students?   
 

 

Hey Nonny Mouse 17 October 20 00:00

“At our bronze medallion firm, 50% of the female trainees are pursued by male partners. No that’s equality: 50%!”

Mrs McClusky 18 October 20 04:38

I am a BAME LPC lecturer  (ex MC lawyer) and this situation here is too deep to be able to explain the problem with a short post. I will  however share my views on why trainee intakes of many firms are similar to that of WBD:

1. Many BAME students live in the major cities in England and Wales and wish to live and work in these areas. However, this is also the locations which attracts candidates from all over the country and in some cases the world so competition is fierce.

2. The racial segregation that happens on the LPC is stark. Although there are many exceptions some BAME students on the LPC do not have training contracts (TCs) (some never gain  TCs) and many struggle to pass with great marks. This is not because BAME students are less intelligent than White students but because of a number of factors:

a) financial - many have to fund the course themselves by working whilst they study. This affects their grades and makes them less competitive candidates.

b) educational - many have not had the educational guidance from schools (even if they attended "good Schools" as this advice is often reserved to a few - Speaking from personal experience) - Many BAME students are never advised to study certain A levels or encouraged to go to certain universities so when they apply for Vac Schemes certain firms will  never consider their applications and therefore they will never get funded LPC and good TCs - this results in a) above.

c) confidence - Many do not have the confidence to  ask the questions like many White students do. I am frequently challenged as a lecturer by many of my White students. If they did not get the point,  they are prepared to hold up the whole class until they got it. Whereas many of my BAME students would rather let it pass (maybe because they felt silly or embarrassed) and like a snowball effect it becomes a bigger problem resulting in lower marks.

d) difficulty adjusting to the different learning style. It is a practical course and not an academic one but they approach it like the LLb and as a result they struggle.

e) Most classes are segregated those with TCs are mainly taught with others with TCs. The few classes that are mixed, were also segregated so those without TCs did not sit with those with TCs. Those with TCs were mainly White students or privately educated BAME students. This failure to mix and interact meant that they failed to learn from each other.

3. No network - there is no question that many BAME students have the ambition and ability to become lawyers but many do not have access to lawyers in their network and so are unrealistic in their approach. I have had many BAME students believe that they will get TCs in magic circle firms earning £££ but they had no realistic idea or clue about how to get there. Many do not know that the journey to  the MC firms starts from school and not when they are on the LPC (see b) above)

4. BAME candidates often check the firm's racial make up before they decide to apply. If there is a severe lack of representation on the website, this can be extremely off putting.It is probably not something that White candidates have to think about very often. Working at a firm as the only BAME lawyer (again speaking from personal experience) is probably how White people may feel if they attend an all BAME wedding: slightly awkward because they are obviously different but frustrated at the attention as all you want to do is to enjoy the food and celebrate the union and hopeful that they will be welcomed and treated well. Some would rather not go. In the same way firms may fail to attract the best BAME as these candidates really would much prefer to apply to a firm where a BAME lawyer is not such a rarity.

5. Racism does exist. Even those candidates who are BAME who do have the finance, grades, network and early guidance do unfortunately suffer racial  prejudice in the recruitment process. Some firms may think that someone else may be a "better fit" or may suit the firm's culture; may be more able to relate to the client base, may be able to attract business in the future. If the firm has none or few BAME lawyers then they are likely to make assumptions based on what they do not know. Which leads them to believing that brilliant BAME candidates are not best for the role. Although recruitment teams are increasingly diverse in  some parts of the country, they are not in others. I have a very English  sounding name and i have seen the visible shock on the faces of HR and Partners who have interviewed me for roles as they did not expect me to be from a BAME background. Every time I have been made to feel like a unicorn,  I have never been offered the position. It may be a coincidence....

So how do we solve this issue of lack of racial diversity in trainee intakes, well firms need to realise all of the above and engage with good BAME candidates at schools. Looking for them at university is good, but for many it is too late. Firm's should share with schools the routes that should be taken, the grades they would prefer candidates to have therefore giving all good students the knowledge and the tools to get there.

LPC providers need to address the success rate of BAME students in getting good LPC grades and also securing TCs and provide the guidance that many BAME students need. They also need to encourage more interaction between students (perhaps in a post COVID world this will be easier)

BAME students and their parents need to confidently demand more from the education systems that frequently sideline students from particular backgrounds as others can be seen as safer bets. Equally, your understanding  of what is being taught is paramount. Fee no way asking the teacher to explain the point until you get it.  it is their job to teach. So get them to teach.

BAME lawyers can do more to reach out to other BAME students who do not have the network and to let them know that it can be done.

Finally firms need to be honest. Some firms just do not want racial diversity or are just not willing to change a formula which appears to work for them for so long. For some, being diverse in terms of the gender goes far enough. And that's fine because, that is communicated loudly enough when we look at the websites and read their empty diversity statements. The world is changing and money is being made all over the world. More and more clients are looking to spend their money with firms who can offer diverse perspectives and viewpoints and many would prefer lawyers who reflect them and their cultures. Firm's need to decide which side of the fence they wish to be. I will be watching WBD's future trainee intake with interest. AL

Anon 18 October 20 08:56

White privilege or simply Class privilege? I think most sane people know the answer.

Fake Partner in Boston 18 October 20 14:00

Firms only care about diversity to the extent that it makes them money - because many corporate clients require their law firms to meet certain diversity metrics. It's a fig leaf for the managing partners at these firms - the vast majority of whom are white. Diversity requirements for their incoming classes certainly aren't going to cost them their job (or a job for their kids). 

Mikey Mule 18 October 20 14:02

I don't remember the Wehrmacht being very diverse when they stormed over Europe. 

Scott 18 October 20 23:00

Great to see that there is a clear majority of sane readers on rof's news section commenting and upvoting on the comments here.

How bewildering that the discussion board is the complete opposite, being crammed full of clearly left-leaning, fearful-of-everything, fragiles. Thankfully, as usual, a very vocal minority. Fools.

Waldo 19 October 20 20:38

Reminds me of a few years ago when Dickinson Dees were the UK’s joke law firm. 

Anonymous 20 October 20 10:21

If you are a qualified lawyer, be a mentor to a struggling student on the LPC using one of their mentoring schemes. Take whomever you are given and give them your all. It levels the playing field for everyone.

Geordie 20 October 20 13:15

I just feel a bit sorry for them.  
 

Day 1 and they already realise they‘ve joined a firm which is often the punchline of the legal profession’s jokes. 

Martin Luther King 20 October 20 16:41

I don't understand why some people here are getting so agitated by the idea of structuring the LPC to take into account structural racism in society. 

Your employers, including MC, SC and US firms, want to give the appearance of acknowledging the problems caused by white privilege / structural racism by setting targets for recruitment of BAME trainees.  This is despite the apparent differentials in LPC results across ethnic groups.

In some cases, these targets are around 30% or 35% of the trainee intake for all minority groups.  This sounds generous, but when you consider that London is only 45% white, actually woefully underrepresent minority groups.  Going by the 2011 census, firms should be aiming to have at least 13% black trainees alone in London. But at least it's a start.

Times they are a changin'.

 

One time applicant to WombleBond 22 October 20 19:27

I despair at some of these comments, as a BAME individual trying to get a foot in the door, it is disheartening that you cannot see what is wrong with this picture. 

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