Boardroom

Diversity is important. Malcolm is from Lancashire, while Derek hails from Yorkshire.


A law firm's diversity policy is only as good as the manner in which it is implemented, according to respondents to the RollOnFriday In-house Lawyer Survey.

For some in-house lawyers, evidence of diversity was "crucial" when it came to instructing firms. "We're a diverse business, if our law firms aren't diverse, they don't get it", said one. Firms "have perpetuated elitism, racial and gender bias", argued a GC in the communications sector. "It needs to change".

Diverse staff "brings diversity of approach, which is important", agreed another in-house lawyer. "Unfortunately, a lot of the major firms like white old guys as partners, and they throw a few token different-looking folk in to show (to pretend) they're doing something."

Others agreed that the policy on the tin may not reflect the way the firm is actually run. "I've never yet found any correlation between what a diversity policy says and how a firm treats its staff and others", said a GC. Like-minded respondents highlighted the importance of taking diversity in the round, and said the firm's overall culture was more important. "I'm far more interested in how they behave as a firm than how many boxes they tick," said a GC in real estate. "People are far more complicated than a tick in an ethnic box anyway."

For others, diversity played a role, but quality if advice was paramount. "Diversity can only be a factor if the quality of legal advice/service is comparable," said one in-house lawyer, who suggested that "meritocracy in recruitment and promotion is arguably more important".

Others were even more hardnosed about what they wanted out of a firm: "I don't really care how 'diverse' a firm is as long as they have good people who provide the right advice and stay within budget," said an in-house lawyer in financial services.  

A number of respondents commented that while they valued diversity, in reality it had little bearing on instructions. "I'd like it to be more important, but frankly I think law firms need to improve some more of the basic stuff around their operating models", said an in-house lawyer. "Those which do that first are more likely to win my business than those which have good D&I policies, but which fumble the day job."

A senior in-house lawyer said that while they thought diversity did "form part of 'panel relationship' discussions" they would never "enquire about a diversity policy when instructing" a firm. They also said that for firms "in a small market", such as the Channel Islands, while "diversity ambitions are laudable" they are not "always so easy to deliver with the pool of candidates available for roles, and personally I am therefore more forgiving than I would be in another market."

A TMT in-house lawyer commented: "I'm from a low income, ethnic minority background myself, I definitely think law firms should lift up people who don't have a 'posh' upbringing and don't have much access to legal work experience. There are initiatives like the Aspiring Solicitors Foundation that are great." But they added: "There is a danger though of creating diversity fatigue in people. I'm not a huge fan of firms that come across as sanctimonious and whose client L&D offering is full of wacky social justice stuff."

The survey is still open, so the final findings could swing towards respondents considering diversity to be an important consideration. If you're in-house, fill in the fields in the survey below.

And if you're a firm proud of its diversity credentials, remember to promote them in a suitable way.

Tip Off ROF

Comments

Realist 27 May 22 10:44

So-called "Diversity" is a contested political issue. There is no practical difference between (a) "diversity"; (b) "targets"; (c) "quotas"; (d) affirmative action; and (e) politically-motivated anti-white/anti-Asian/anti-male discrimination. They are substantially identical, the only difference between them is the level of euphemism used. We absolutely should strive to demystify professions, make them accessible to working-class children etc., and to anyone with ability, but creating de facto quotas due to left-wing political pressure is short-sighted, unfair, and will both (a) create a backlash; and (b) taint successful minority candidates with the implication that they are only 'diversity hires'. Our recruiting and promotion should be colour-blind, gender-free, meritocratic and as transparent as possible.

Counter-arguments to the current politically fashionable zeitgeist include:

⚫  "Diversity is simply a political theory favored by advocates of identity politics. Its origins still define it. "Science" has ever since been playing catch-up-trying to supply a scientific foundation for what is a political objective. The primary function of the business case is to lend a veneer of scientific respectability to the political program of affirmative action for women and non-whites. The scientific evidence does not support the claims made by advocates of diversity in the workplace." (Maitland, Ian. "Why the business case for diversity is wrong." Geo. JL & Pub. Pol'y 16 (2018): 731)

⚫  "Diversity either has a very weak relationship with performance or no relationship at all. Arguments for diversity are merely 'politics by other means'." (Klein, Katherine. "Does gender diversity on boards really boost company performance." [email protected] Wharton (2017))

⚫  "…greater diversity along the intersection of gender and race/ethnicity significantly reduced performance" (Calder-Wang, Sophie, Paul A. Gompers, and Kevin Huang. Diversity and Performance in Entrepreneurial Teams. No. w28684. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2021.)

⚫  "[This is the first systematic review exploring the impact of mandated gender quotas on subsequent company financial performance.] Several countries have mandated sex quotas on corporate boards of directors. We systematically reviewed empirical studies that compared company profitability and financial performance before and after introducing legislated quotas. [...] quotas for women on corporate boards have mainly decreased company performance [...]. (Jeong Jin Yu,Guy Madison: Gender quotas and company financial performance: A systematic review, Economic Affairs, October 2021, pp377-390, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ecaf.12487)

The antithesis to merit and objective assessment is “wokeism”, identity politics, or so-called 'social justice': the contrivance, fetishization and weaponization of victimhood to gain status, seize resources and destroy political enemies. Its analyses are wrong, it is toxic, and it is laying down the kindling to incite a race war - from which its disciples intend to profit. I prefer MLK’s and John Roberts’ guidance:

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." - Martin Luther King, 28 August 1963, Washington DC.

"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."- Chief Justice Roberts, "Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1", 551 U.S. 701; 127 S. Ct. 2738; 168 L. Ed. 2d 508; 75 U.S.L.W. 4577; 20 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 490.

Diversity 27 May 22 12:24

Yes what a controversial concept, the idea that the make-up of the legal profession should somewhat resemble the demographics of the country as a whole…

That being said, I do think simple tick boxes are unhelpful.

To give an example, there is a pretty significant difference between meeting a target to have [x]% of BAME staff by hiring a bunch of rich kids from Singapore and doing so by hiring a cross section of people from minority ethnic backgrounds from across the UK.

Social class doesn’t get as much air time, but to me that looks like the area in which the profession is least diverse. 

Anonymous 27 May 22 12:57

As a client I want definitive advice, on time, within budget.

The rest doesn't matter to me. That's not to say it isn't important to other clients. 

Anonymous 27 May 22 13:00

"Who copies and pastes their PhD thesis into RoF?"

At very best, that's gunning for a Masters.

 

 

It's all fair comment though, the actual substance is decent if you dig into the wall of text...

Realist 27 May 22 14:09

I drafted the comment years ago, and merely pasted it in here. I can’t even take credit for the substantive content - please see the authors below, to whom all credit is due.

**** Recommended authors ****

** USA:
Adolph Reed Jr
Barbara J Fields
Candace Owens
Amy Chua
Douglas Murray
Heather MacDonald (www.city-journal.org/contributor/heather-mac-donald_122)
Andrew Doyle
Andrew Sullivan
Megan Kelly
Gad Saad
Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn
Thomas Sowell (e.g. "The Economics and Politics of Race")
Coleman Hughes
John McWhorter
Africa Brooke 
Walter Benn Michaels 
Glenn Loury
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Jason Reilly
Shelby Steele (e.g. "The Content of Our Character")
Larry Elder
Thomas Chatterton Williams (e.g. "Self-Portrait in Black and White")
Walter Williams
Wilfred Reilly (see article list: https://twitter.com/wil_da_beast630/status/1502805846048260099)

** UK:
Andrew Doyle (AKA Titania McGrath. E.g. "Everything is racist" - hilarious compilation of left-wing lunacy: https://twitter.com/titaniamcgrath/status/1281023987242487808
Alka Seghal Cuthbert and Ralph Leonard
Trevor Phillips
Zubi is also good value on race and gender identity issues: as you may know he hilariously beat one of the women’s weightlifting records while (temporarily) “identifying” as a woman.
Kemi Badenoch (although I am no fan of this government, she has a lot to offer to this debate.)
Kenan Malik
Tomiwa Owolade

Paul 27 May 22 14:18

"Meeting a target to have [x]% BAME staff" potentially sounds like an invitation for unsuccessful white applicants to sue you under the Equality Act.  It does happen and rightly so in appropriate cases.  Racism is bad even when it is against white people.

ComeAtMeBro 27 May 22 14:29

Yes what a controversial concept, the idea that the make-up of the legal profession should somewhat resemble the demographics of the country as a whole…

The issue with that statement is that no company can ever be diverse enough to appease these SJW's as demonstrated by this feedback in the article:

"Unfortunately, a lot of the major firms like white old guys as partners, and they throw a few token different-looking folk in to show (to pretend) they're doing something."

If companies hired based on the representative racial demographics of the country, then only 3% of staff would be black. Now, you would be forgiven for assuming that more than half of the country is from an ethnic background, given this modern day fetishization with ethnic minorities and the over representation of them in the media and advertising but facts are facts and the sad truth is that there is no obtainable level of diversity that these agenda driven people would ever be happy with (unless of course, it was all female, all ethnic minority then that would be perfectly fine).

Cheers Paul 27 May 22 16:39

Yeah all those failed applicants who sue law firms…

That sweet potential £10k pay-out after a year of proceedings, £5k of costs and never being hired in the City again are well worth it…

Boo hoo for all the privately educated white chaps between the 80th and 90th percentile of competence…

Anonymous 27 May 22 18:38

@ComeAtMeBro - well quite, the Diversity Industry is a bit like a snake eating its own tail in that regard.

You think it's all great when you're the in-vogue minority and everyone is finding ways to hand out free goodies for you, but then it suddenly comes into sharp focus how unfair it is when the next in-group gets their turn and start gobbling up all of the freebies that you thought were yours by right.

Exhibit A: The current Feminists vs the Transfolk bunfight.

 

Tldr: Modern Diversity and Inclusion claptrap is complete intellectual dead end that fosters and creates division rather than solving it; the only way out of the trap is to bin the lot and then double down on efforts to culture a colour (and class) blind meritocracy without the incessant focus on prioritising whichever fashionable minority is shouting loudest on that particular day.

You’reAnIdiotBro 27 May 22 19:40

@ComeAtMeBro - Do you think law firm representation of black British people is greater than 3%? It isn’t in my experience.

The population is about 14% non-Caucasian and that seems roughly in line with the BAME representation in law firms. The issue is that BAME is not one homogenous group of people, so there are some non-Caucasian groups which are enormously underrepresented, particularly at more senior levels of the profession.

Hussein 28 May 22 11:17

It's easy to lecture others about their "white privilege" or their "cis privilege" and how they are fundamentally Bad People because of not what they do but what they are and need to repent for their sins.

Just parrot the lingo of American social justice activists. Any midwit can board this gravy train. But many BAMEs, POCs, etc. etc., of which I happen to be one, find this "us and them" narrative so frustrating.

We're not a uniform political bloc. Many of us reject the authoritarian worldview of bestselling, purportedly "anti-racist" US authors like Ibram X. Kendi or Robin DiAngelo. HR teams, many of them white and posh, have been gleefully promoting this nonsense for years. I can only see this as a repeat of the age-old game of divide and rule.

If anyone tells you that actually, your fellow citizen or colleague of a different skin colour (and political persuasion) is your enemy, and that the big boss is your ally - are they really your friend? Or do they just want to control you with fear?

FTSEs and firms: Defund the preachy stuff. Start funding scholarships. Do something to open up careers in the City to more people who are not from a traditional background but who are perfectly capable to do so.

Anon 28 May 22 16:51

Sadly the people that control/own the firms aren’t very diverse so they tend to look to promote the exact opposite in front client facing roles. Should be merit based 

Paul 30 May 22 09:57

I wasn't necessarily speaking of discrimination in terms of law firms but more generally.

Furlong v The Chief Constable of Cheshire Police explains the law.

Why would law firms want to act unlawfully?  Surely their reputation is at stake as well?

Anonymous 30 May 22 13:53

Frankly if in house lawyers do not care about diversity that’s a pretty sad state of affairs. I would be more interested in what their business requires and looks at. 
 

also the comments here - stale, male and pale. 

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