Diversity and Inclusion Annual Review 2022

Our journey so far

Our journey
so far

Diversity and Inclusion Annual Review 2022

Our journey so far

Our journey
so far

Diversity and Inclusion Annual Review 2022

Our journey so far

Our journey
so far

Diversity and Inclusion Annual Review 2022

Our journey so far

Our journey
so far

Welcome to our 2022 Diversity and Inclusion Annual Review

Georgia Dawson on why diversity and inclusion is critical to Freshfields’ future – and how our first annual review is an important step on our D&I journey

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The statistics featured in our report shine a light on where we stand, one year on. But diversity and inclusion is about more than numbers and benchmarks. It is about the way we connect with each other and our clients, and the way we build a firm that is stronger than the sum of its parts.

Georgia Dawson

Senior Partner

Last year we launched our enhanced D&I targets and commitments as part of our drive to become a more diverse and inclusive firm, and to accelerate the pace of change. 

Improving representation across a range of diversity characteristics has long been a focus for Freshfields, and taking these steps – so that everyone at our firm understands our goals and the role they can play in meeting them – was a crucial stage on that journey. Transparency is also critical for any organisation that is serious about change. We promised to report on our progress each year, because our targets will only be effective if we are open about whether we meet them.

The statistics featured in our report shine a light on where we stand, one year on. But diversity and inclusion is about more than numbers and benchmarks. It is about the way we connect with each other and our clients, and the way we build a firm that is stronger than the sum of its parts. That is why, as well as publishing data on our performance, we are sharing stories about how we are making our targets a reality.

Below you will find Claire Wills and Sarah Solum, our UK and US Managing Partners, describing what diversity means to them and how the programmes they lead are making a difference in their markets; personal insights from participants in a variety of our D&I initiatives and networks; and a profile of our female talent in tech scheme, through which we connect lawyers and women at the world’s biggest tech companies to improve diversity in two industries striving to improve their gender balance.

You will read about our pro bono work, our networks, and our Future Leaders Programme – and be introduced to our Stephen Lawrence Scholarship Scheme, which helps provides a path for Black men to access and build their careers in the City.

Prioritising D&I

On a personal level, improving diversity and inclusion at Freshfields – and doing whatever I can to support change in our industry as a whole – is my most important priority. As Senior Partner I want Freshfields to be a diverse and inclusive organisation, firstly because it is the right thing to do but also because it is the smart thing to do. I firmly believe that an inclusive firm is more dynamic, more collaborative, more creative and more united (all qualities that echo our purpose and values).

A firm where diversity of thought is valued, and where people feel they belong, is an environment where everyone can deliver their best. And when we do our best work, we drive better outcomes for our clients. They, quite rightly, are pushing us hard to do more, and we share their desire for meaningful progress.

Sharpening focus, strengthening resolve

I am proud of what we have achieved over the past 12 months, but I am also a realist. I know we have much further to travel, and that we will only meet our goals if we sharpen our focus and strengthen our resolve. Knowing Freshfields as I do, I am confident we will rise to the challenge, just as we have to support our clients and each other through the extraordinary events of the past two years.

I would like to thank every member of our firm – not just the people you will read about in this report – who create our culture and make Freshfields such a powerful institution. I am privileged to lead this firm, but I also understand that every individual has the capacity to drive the change we want to see. That is why we launched our Associate and Business Services Advisory Board, through which all our people have a voice in the key decisions that define our future. I have also been lucky to benefit from some very perceptive feedback via our fantastic Reverse Mentoring Scheme (you can read more here), which has helped shape the way I approach my role. 

Throughout my working life, I have wanted to be judged on my abilities and how I engage with people, rather than any individual characteristic. However, as the first woman to lead Freshfields – and one of only a handful of women to lead any major international law firm – I have found myself in the spotlight. I hope the efforts of everyone striving to make our industry more diverse and inclusive will mean that, in future, the only thing considered remarkable about any law firm leader will be who they are and the qualities they bring to the role, not the communities they identify with.

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Building a strategy that works

Helen Ouseley explains the three pillars of our D&I strategy, and how diversity considerations have been built into our day-to-day decision-making

Belong, Engage, Excel Image

As Georgia says, diversity has been a focus at Freshfields for some time. In that regard we’re not unusual: many businesses are striving to be more diverse and inclusive. But wanting to change is not enough, nor are interventions and initiatives – however well designed – the whole answer. Without sustained, concentrated effort, even the best-intentioned and well-resourced efforts can fail.

That’s why the foundation of Freshfields’ D&I strategy is our: belong, engage and excel. Through these clear, simple values, we aim to harness our people’s desire for change, and embed commitments across our firm that help everyone understand their roles and responsibilities.

‘Belong’, our first priority, is about everyday behaviours and accountability, inclusive leadership, and mental health and wellbeing. Our second, ‘engage’, encourages action across our different diversity strands, and authentic dialogue with our colleagues, clients and the communities in which we work. And ‘excel’ is our drive to enhance the career experience of diverse colleagues at the firm, and to recruit, retain and promote diverse talent to senior roles.

We are concentrating our D&I efforts on activity that will move the dial: what will drive the most impact in priority areas. Making practical improvements and measuring our progress is at the heart of our strategic approach. But these global and intersectional targets and commitments are certainly not our final destination. Instead, our targets are there to accelerate the real progress we are already making; as a constant stimulus to keep us moving in the right direction. 

Multiple dimensions

In setting goals, we have been careful to address D&I in multiple dimensions. A standardised approach is not feasible given the complex and intersectional nature of diversity. We’ve also reflected on the unique challenges we face, and we constantly reassess and adjust our methods in line with the evolution of the D&I and wellbeing landscape in which we work. Recently that has included embedding D&I-related wording into our global appraisals and 360 feedback processes, creating new time recording codes for D&I-related work, and holding board-level D&I-related discussions, including diversity pipeline updates and mid-year updates on targets.

Our recent D&I efforts have focused on the themes we currently see as important, including allyship, belonging, micro-aggressions and affirmations. In the future, I have no doubt that the list will evolve and could look very different.

Like Georgia I’m delighted by some of the results we have seen this year (for instance the diversity of our new partners) and would like to thank our leaders and colleagues – and our affinity networks in particular. Their hard work has helped us have a positive impact on colleagues, clients and our local communities. The cultural and structural changes – already achieved and currently underway – will help us amplify our efforts. Working together we can achieve more, and I look forward to building on progress and pushing for further change.

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In setting goals, we have been careful to address D&I in multiple dimensions … given the complex and intersectional nature of diversity. We’ve also reflected on the unique challenges we face, and are constantly reassessing and adjusting our methods in line with the evolution of the D&I and wellbeing landscape.

Helen Ouseley

Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion

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Our progress

In this section we reveal how we have performed against our diversity and inclusion targets, while Claire Wills and Sarah Solum – our UK and US Managing Partners – discuss the initiatives that are making a difference to our diversity performance on both sides of the Atlantic

‘It’s critical we embrace diversity and inclusion. We set the standard’

Claire Wills, our London Managing Partner, and Sarah Solum, who leads our US practice, reflect on what diversity means to them – and which of the firm’s D&I initiatives have the greatest potential to make a difference

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It’s really important to me that we have diversity and inclusion at the heart of our strategic priorities, so that when we’re making decisions we’re applying a D&I lens and being as ambitious as we possibly can be.

Claire Wills

London Managing Partner

Why does diversity and inclusion matter to Freshfields?

Claire Wills: For me, this goes to our core values. We are all about excellence, and that means having the best people. Our clients realise they can’t be getting the best team if it’s not diverse.

Sarah Solum: Firstly,because it’s a business imperative. Our clients expect it, and many demand it. If Freshfields isn’t a place where women or people from different backgrounds want to work, we won’t be able to meet their needs. It’s also the right thing to do – we’re one of the most prominent global law firms so we set the standard.

What does being part of a diverse and inclusive team mean to you?

CW: I love our differences. I think it’s important we celebrate them. It’s much more inspiring to work with a wide range of people rather than us all thinking and being the same.

SS: I’d been a partner for 20 years when I joined Freshfields, and as I was getting to know people here I met a huge number of impressive women. I was excited to be a part of a firm where so many other women were killing it in their careers. Sometimes we talk about ‘belonging’ as something that matters to young lawyers, but it matters at all levels.

What D&I programmes have made the biggest difference in Silicon Valley and London, and what excites you about the future?

CW: I’d call out our Stephen Lawrence Scholarship Scheme, which for a decade has provided a path for Black men to access and build their careers in the City. It’s made a huge difference to our understanding of the challenges they face, which helps us continue positive conversations about things like potential, and to develop relationships with some fantastically talented people. We’re also supporting people on their family-forming journey, including by updating our policies around parental leave, which colleagues have said is a game-changer.

SS: I’m really excited about our Returners’ Programme, which is designed to bring people back to the legal profession after an extended break. It’s not limited to any group, but often women [find themselves in this situation] because they’ve had children. We thought it would be great to welcome them back and help them refresh their skills.

What can you do as a leader to create a more diverse and inclusive firm?

CW: It’s really important to me that we have diversity and inclusion at the heart of our strategic priorities, so that when we’re making decisions we’re applying a D&I lens and being as ambitious as we possibly can be.

SS: There are big things, like sponsoring programmes that help us [comply with] Mansfield or get certified by WILEF. There are also small things, like ensuring that colleagues from all backgrounds get the chance to speak in meetings and are invited to pitches. It’s also about being really intentional about spreading opportunities around and giving people roles that challenge them and keep them interested.

How has the D&I landscape changed through your career?

CW: When I started out, even though our trainee intake was 50:50 in terms of gender, when I was with clients I could be the only woman in the room. I’m pleased to say that’s changed [but] we clearly have a lot to do in terms of other forms of diversity. One of the interesting things for me coming through the pandemic and in the wake of the murder of George Floyd is that we are more willing to have discussions around diversity and what that really means in a way I haven’t seen before that should help bring about more change.

SS: The change at the board level has been incredible. There have been laws introduced – first in Europe and now in certain US states – requiring companies to have certain numbers of women and people from under-represented groups among their directors. But this is often happening even when it’s not being forced. It’s heartening to see this mindset of capturing the best thinking from a broad group of people in action at the board level.

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Our people

Here we preview some of the initiatives that are contributing to make Freshfields a more diverse and inclusive firm, from creating a platform to assist ethnically diverse colleagues build their leadership skills to providing senior individuals with mentorship from junior team members and helping talented women associates advance their careers

Empowering diverse leaders

Our Future Leaders Programme is designed to empower our Black and ethnically diverse colleagues as they build their careers with us. Through high-quality bespoke training, the Programme plays a critical role in ensuring the firm recognises, supports and nurtures diverse talent around the world as we aim to address the under-representation of ethnically diverse talent in leadership positions. Partnering with the Centre for Synchronous Leadership, it aims to help retain talented colleagues across our firm, and is also a great opportunity for sponsors on this programme to gain additional skills in supporting diverse colleagues’ development.

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It's very comforting to know that other people in the network have had similar experiences to mine, and that Freshfields is investing a lot of time through this programme, ensuring that all its talent is being recognised and developed

Benjamin Ng


Inside our Future Leaders Programme

Breaking down barriers

Inside our Reverse Mentoring Programme

Our global Reverse Mentoring Programme pairs a more junior mentor, who identifies with being from an under-represented group in their region or jurisdiction, with a more senior mentee. The Programme empowers our mentors and helps them build and strengthen relationships with the firm’s leadership.

Unlike traditional ‘top-down’ mentoring, reverse mentoring allows our senior professionals to benefit from guidance and input from more junior colleagues, to see the world through their eyes and gain a wider perspective on Freshfields’ culture. The Programme helps to build diversity of thought and provides an opportunity for professional development that is centred around open and constructive feedback.

Supporting talented women

Our Global Sponsorship Programme is a 12-month tailored learning and development programme designed to help our talented women associates progress their careers.

The Programme aims to give colleagues the tools they need to reach their potential, with support from dedicated partner sponsors, access to an executive coach, and a personalised course focused on smart, targeted business planning. Each of our practice groups nominates associates from across the world to join the Programme, while also selecting a sponsor to work with them during the year.

Focused on ‘developing professional identity’, the Programme gives each participant practical guidance on how to take charge of their career, as well as providing an opportunity to reflect on their strengths alongside advice on maximising networking opportunities and deepening relationships with clients and colleagues.

Inside our Global Sponsorship Programme

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I knew my sponsor because we worked together a lot, but the programme has given us an opportunity to meet outside of the context of work and have conversations that wouldn’t naturally [have] occurred beforehand.

Jane Peng

Senior Associate

The Global Sponsorship Programme in numbers

• In 2021 36% of women promoted to partnership and 70% women promoted to counsel were Programme graduates

• Over 160 lawyers have participated in the Programme since its 2015 launch, with around 25 women participating annually

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Harnessing untapped talent in Silicon Valley

In January 2022 we launched an initiative to access a relatively untapped source of talent among global law firms – experienced practitioners who have spent time away from the profession.  

Our Returners’ Programme provides a unique opportunity for former practicing lawyers to reignite their careers in our Silicon Valley team via a tailored programme of mentorship, training and support.  

Boris Feldman, one of our founding partners in the Valley and co-head of our global Technology practice, says: ‘There are many exceptional lawyers who have taken a pause on their careers to raise families or care for loved ones. These are people with outstanding experience both inside and outside the law, but who often find it challenging to pick up where they left off.

‘The Returners Programme is designed to help us access their talent by providing a smooth pathway back to the top of the legal profession alongside peers who are at a similar stage in their lives. The response since we launched in January has been phenomenal.’

The Returners Programme is open to any attorney who has been away from the profession for at least two years.

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Access to opportunity – the Stephen Lawrence Scholarship Scheme

Inside the Scheme

Annette Byron, Freshfields Partner for social mobility and a founder of the Stephen Lawrence Scholarship Scheme

‘I’ve been involved with the Stephen Lawrence Scholarship Scheme since it launched nearly a decade ago, yet never fail to be inspired by the potential and commitment of candidates and our scholars each year.

Students have had an incredibly difficult time over the past couple of years. Less in-person learning has meant those without financial privilege – who are on the wrong side of the digital divide – have faced even greater challenges to access opportunity.

It’s critical we continue to identify outstanding potential and create a pathway for those individuals to realise their ambitions. But I believe that we at Freshfields learn as much from the Scheme as students: the insights our many volunteers gain and the support they give help us to reflect on things such as difference and subconscious bias for conversations throughout our organisation and beyond.

The Stephen Lawrence Scholarship Scheme is a really powerful way for Freshfields – and our clients including Aon and the Bank of England – to build relationships with exceptionally talented people.’

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We know that the pandemic has hit Black communities hard. Without businesses reaching out to these groups, we risk losing a generation of talent just when we need their innovation and creativity the most.

Annette Byron

Partner and Scheme founder

Freshfields Stephen Lawrence Scheme in numbers

147 candidates assessed and 26 scholarships awarded in the last two years
15 month bespoke development programme for our 13 2021 scholars
95 total scholarships awarded in 9 years
42 UK universities nominated eligible students in 2022

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Mental health and wellbeing

Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of our people has never been more important and continues to be a key priority as we evolve our approach across our global network

Freshfields’ global Mental Health First Aid Programme strives to build knowledge and understanding of mental health. ‘Mental health first aiders’ are trained to spot the signs of mental distress, then respond and provide appropriate support, as well as running regular drop-in sessions and panel events.

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A bespoke course is delivered in seven languages across our continental Europe offices, and we have already exceeded our ambitious aim to train one in 25 of our colleagues worldwide, with over 300 mental health first aiders across our global network.

We recognise that in order address stigma and drive cultural change, wellbeing needs to be approached on multiple levels including within our values, Being Freshfields and D&I principles, and drawing upon lived experience and personal stories across our firm and in collaboration with our Freshfields Mental Health Affinity Network.

More recently, we launched our global wellbeing framework during the pandemic to support the wellbeing of colleagues on multiple dimensions, in relation to mind, body and balance. The framework aims to bring a more universal understanding of wellbeing across the firm and helps our people cultivate healthy behaviours and focus on the important things at the right time. This includes introducing a Global Wellbeing Hub, which provides easy access to tools and services ranging from everyday self-care, such as our wellbeing apps, Calm and Unmind, through to expert mental health services. We have also become a ‘Friends’ Partner with This Can Happen, a global social enterprise that support businesses across the world to create a positive environment for good mental health in the workplace.

Finally over the summer of 2021 to further support the wellbeing of our people and recognise their hard work and dedication during the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, we introduced additional wellbeing measures including, closing all our offices globally for two ‘Freshfields wellbeing days’, introducing a 'Community Day', to allow teams to reconnect and give back to our communities and camera and internal meeting free Friday afternoons.

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Assisting social mobility

The Freshfields Aspiring Professionals Programme is a social mobility outreach programme created in partnership between Freshfields and the Social Mobility Foundation to support talented young people from social mobility ‘cold spot’ areas. The Programme aims to encourage social mobility and racial equality for students by raising aspirations, building confidence in a professional setting and establishing professional networks.

In 2022, where you grew up, where you went to school and what your parents did remain significant predictors of educational and career outcomes in the UK. For many young people, a career in law can seem unattainable.

The Programme recently completed its first year and aims to change the narrative for students from areas of socioeconomic deprivation across the UK by providing students with a mentor, university application support, skills workshops and a virtual work shadowing placement.

There is increasing evidence that those from lower socioeconomic groups can suffer a ‘double disadvantage’ if they are from minority ethnic backgrounds. In addition to supporting individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, the Programme seeks to support those from minority ethnic backgrounds.

‘The experience has not only confirmed that Law is the career I want to pursue, but has shown me that I'll be able to belong in it,’ said one recent Aspiring Professionals student.

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Gender Equality Network event; Black History Month - Alex Scott event; Jewish Network Holocaust Memorial event; LGBTQ+ event image

(top left – bottom right) Gender Equality Network event; Black History Month - Alex Scott event; Jewish Network Holocaust Memorial event; LGBTQ+ event

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Our networks play an important role in creating an environment where everyone feels they belong

Building a network of allies

Our D&I networks are hugely impactful, influencing our strategy, promoting open dialogue, empowering our people to bring their full selves to work, and giving allies a way to build empathy, learn and stand up for their colleagues.

Networks provide a platform to drive change: one example is our Global Black Affinity Network, which brings together employees of Black African and Black African-Caribbean heritage, and who have created a network of BANbassadors, senior allies who they collaborate with including promoting dialogue around inclusive language, accountability and sponsorship.

Networks also provide a space for colleagues to connect locally and globally, such as Halo, our LGBTQ+ network, which now has more than 100 members across 20 of our 27 offices.

(We also have more than 400 Halo champions who don’t identify as LGBTQ+.) And our Women’s Networks engage in activities including mentoring, networking and professional development skills training, as well as partnering with clients and external organisations. In the US, our Black Employee Resource Group has been active in advising on how to best advance racial justice, including researching and choosing which organisations would benefit from Freshfields’ $100,000 donation.

Other networks empower our people and raise awareness: Freshfields Enabled was set up to represent, and provide support to those affected by disability, as well as those with caring responsibilities. They have been involved in multiple events and activities, elevating the profile of disability inclusion internally and externally. Personal support is also available, for example through our Mental Health Affinity Network, which raises awareness about mental health issues and promotes best practices.

We continue to expand, with our newest groups focusing on religious, ethnic and cultural identities, such as our Asian Affinity Network in the UK, and Campos Frescos for colleagues interested in Latin American and Hispanic culture in the US. Our networks continue to evolve, and work together, recognising the importance of intersectionality. For example our Social Mobility Network has collaborated with many other networks to highlight shared and unique experiences.

Collectively and individually our colleagues are making an impact and we look forward to sharing more detailed stories of their efforts over time.

Our business

Below we explore how our focus on diversity and inclusion is driving positive change across our broader network, from our collaborations with clients to our sustainable procurement strategy. We also highlight some of our most important pro bono matters

Collaborating with our clients

Creating a more diverse and inclusive firm will take time but every colleague has the opportunity to make a difference and ensure we progress. We also recognise that our relationships with businesses across sectors can be a powerful force for change and a route for us to learn about how leaders in other sectors are approaching the challenge of improving representation across a range of diversity characteristics. Here, we profile two of our many client collaborations – one designed to support greater gender diversity in the traditionally male-dominated world of tech, and another that shines a spotlight on racial diversity in corporate America. These global client and recruitment events seek to engage as wide a variety of voices as possible as we celebrate the contributions of under-represented groups and seek to inspire the next generation of diverse talent.

Inspiring women in tech and law

Our Female Talent for Tech Initiative aims to inspire women to work in traditionally male-dominated business areas related to technology and play an active role in the digital transformation of society. It brings together women who are law school graduates, tech executives and Freshfields lawyers in the tech space.

Freshfields’ Global Transactions partner Theresa Ehlen, based in Dusseldorf, sits on the Female Talent for Tech steering committee. ‘I’m so proud of the work that Freshfields is doing to inspire and nurture female talent,’ Theresa says. ‘The Female Talent for Tech initiative is about so much more than recruitment for us. Engaging with so many brilliant women at different stages of their career, and learning about their personal and professional experiences has allowed us to create a valuable global network for women in the legal and tech space. It has also been inspiring to see the enthusiasm that our clients have for this initiative, with many of them working closely with us on our events. This not only allows us to better understand our clients’ needs and challenges, but it also demonstrates the power of collaboration in pushing the needle on incredibly important issues.’

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Encouraging dialogue on race in corporate America

In celebration of Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, Freshfields hosts an annual panel discussion with AAPI in-house leaders on issues of diversity, race and equality that confront corporate America. Mike Tang, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Agilent Technologies, sat on the panel and noted the benefits to law firms and their clients of events such as this. ‘To promote and live up to Agilent’s goals for DE&I, I expect that my teams hire and work with diverse and inclusive law firm teams. To that end, it’s then important for my team and me to help support such firms in their efforts to promote DE&I and participating in events such as the AAPI panel discussion at Freshfields is one example of my team’s commitment to partner with our law firms.”

Mike Tang, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Agilent Technologies
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To promote and live up to Agilent’s goals for DE&I, I expect that my teams work with diverse and inclusive law firms. It’s then important for me to help support these firms in their efforts to improve diversity.

Mike Tang

Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Agilent Technologies

Freshfields’ Corporate and M&A partner Zheng (Jonathan) Zhou, who is based in New York, moderated the panel in 2021 with Jane Peng, a senior associate in the firm’s litigation and arbitration group. The discussion highlighted the surge of social justice movements in recent years, as well as anti-Asian violence in the US, and what these mean to the legal profession. The panel also talked about how law firms and their clients can – and must – work together to improve diversity in the legal industry.

‘Forums such as these are important to discuss the particular challenges facing the AAPI community in the legal profession and the ways to overcome them,’ Jonathan says. ‘Mentorship is also vital - having role models from similar backgrounds enables younger lawyers to imagine what their future career could look like; both from a professional development perspective for the individual, and a retention perspective for their employer, it’s critical to have a diverse group of lawyers at all levels. As far as Freshfields is concerned, our AAPI events help us reach out to an even wider group of excellent candidates and engaged with our clients, which is something we can be really proud of.’

Mike Tang echoed the sentiment that people should be at the heart of diversity initiatives: ‘It’s important for law firm attorneys and other team members to see that diversity is represented not only at their firm but also at the companies that are their firm’s clients. People, particularly those from under-represented groups, need to know that people similar to themselves have had similar experiences and that there is a path for them to reach their career aspirations. In short, representation matters.’

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Making a difference through pro bono advice

We place huge importance on our pro bono work and treat our pro bono clients the same as any other client. In the past year our teams have secured some landmark judgments for our clients, including in cases that support women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights and combat racial injustice – here are some of the highlights.

Delivering justice for activist deceived into relationship

In the UK we represented Kate Wilson, whose political activities and personal life were subject to covert police surveillance for more than ten years. Kate was deceived into a long-term sexual relationship by an undercover police officer between November 2003 and February 2005.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal handed down a landmark judgment, finding far-reaching breaches of five separate ECHR articles, noting ‘disturbing and lamentable failings at the most fundamental levels’ and making an unprecedented award for damages.

‘This was a highly challenging matter, both technically and emotionally’ says Matthew Bruce, the Freshfields partner who led the team assisting Kate. ‘We were immensely proud to support Kate, helping reach a successful resolution after a fight of more than 10 years.

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The work Freshfields did on my case was overwhelming. It was a highly emotive time for me and the support and advice I got was invaluable. As an anarchist and an anti-capitalist, I was very nervous about working with a City law firm, but … I don't have the words to express how amazing it was to have them on my side.

Kate Wilson

Kate’s tenacity, perseverance and bravery – all recognised by the Tribunal – paved the way for the legal team to obtain a really important judgment that will, hopefully, change attitudes and approach. Before we came on board, Kate had acted as a litigant in person but, without her own means, looked to Freshfields and counsel to take this case pro bono. Providing support for those not able to reasonably access justice is an important responsibility.’

As Kate Wilson says: ‘The work Freshfields did on my case was overwhelming. It was a highly emotive time for me and the support and advice I got was invaluable. As an anarchist and an anti-capitalist, I was very nervous about working with a City law firm, but absolutely everything worked perfectly, which is testament to how good the Freshfields team are! I really don't have the words to express how amazing it was to have them on my side!’

You can read more on the findings and broader implications of the judgment here.

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Securing critical European Court ruling on ‘rainbow families’

In Europe, we helped bring about a landmark ruling strengthening the rights of LGBTQ+ families across the region.

When Bulgaria refused to issue a birth certificate for a child born to two mothers one of whom is a citizen of a European country (Bulgaria) and whose relationship to her mothers had already been legally established in Spain (the country of her birth), the case was referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Freshfields teamed up with ILGA Europe, an NGO umbrella organisation bringing together over 600 organisations advocating human rights and equality for LGBTQ+ people in Europe, to provide legal and strategic support.

The Court took the view that a parent-child relationship established in one member state must be recognised in all other Member states without exceptions, sending a strong message in favour of protecting the parent-child relationship in LGBTQ+ families.

‘This case was about helping a little girl gaining access to and exercising her legal rights. In helping to shape the future of this individual person, we have also given support to the many others out there struggling to be treated equally,’ says Carsten Wendler, the partner leading the Freshfields team. ‘Pro bono work like this is a valuable opportunity to use our skills to positively influence society.’

You can read more on the case here.

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This case was about empowering a little girl to gain access to, and exercise, her legal rights. In helping to shape [her] future, we have also given support to the many others out there struggling to be treated equally.

Carsten Wendler


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Helping Black victims of police violence

In the US, American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, alongside Freshfields and another law firm is representing Raynaldo Sampy, a Black man who was asleep, removed from his parked truck and subjected to a violent attack by police officers.

Mr Sampy was repeatedly thrown onto the pavement face first, and pinned down with officers’ knees on his neck, back and legs. This brutal encounter, involving seven police officers, was in response to an erroneous report that Mr. Sampy had driven into an ice cooler outside of a convenience store – an impossibility, given that a steel guard rail protected the cooler from being struck by vehicles.

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These cases are of obvious social importance and the recent decision represents an early victory for the ACLU of Louisiana’s Justice Lab initiative, which seeks to challenge racially discriminatory policing practices and to combat police violence against people of colour.

Linda Martin


The judge who presided over Mr. Sampy’s criminal proceedings arising from this incident remarked, ‘I don’t know that we’ve ever had a situation like this in my twenty something years that we’ve had to deal with a detention that got out of hand as this one did.’

‘These cases are of obvious social importance and the recent decision represents an early victory for the ACLU of Louisiana’s Justice Lab initiative, which seeks to challenge, through litigation, racially discriminatory policing practices and to combat police violence against people of colour,’ says Linda Martin, the partner who is leading the Freshfields team. ‘I am proud of our team for achieving this early victory, and proud that Freshfields was the first law firm to achieve a ruling of note in one of these cases.’

You can read more on the case here.

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Sustainable procurement

Freshfields is a global business and, as with other multinational organisations that have complex worldwide value chains, procurement is a key route to embedding and developing sustainable practices.

Freshfields works with between 5,000 and 7,000 suppliers in a typical year so a root-and-branch overhaul of procurement focusing on our environmental, social and ethical impacts involved collaboration across Freshfields teams. Freshfields’ sustainable procurement approach is led by global procurement together with key stakeholders and parts of the business, and expert insights from our sustainability practice and D&I team, among others.

Sustainability has been embedded in supplier selection process to ensure our suppliers not only deliver the best goods and services, but are also committed to being responsible businesses. We have been collaborating with our suppliers to promote, learn and share best practices on sustainability both in our own operations and in our value chains.

Establishing a baseline has been a crucial first step and we have found that 8 per cent of our spend is with diverse suppliers (disabled-owned businesses, LGBTQ+-owned businesses, women-owned businesses or another dimension of diversity). We became a global member of WeConnect International in April 2021. Working with them, we understand this representation compares favourably with our peers globally but are focused on building from this foundation and are seeking opportunities to engage more with diverse suppliers in future.

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Data and transparency

Transparency is critical for any organisation serious about change – after all, targets are nothing unless you are honest about whether you meet them. As we strive to accelerate the pace of change on diversity and inclusion, we are monitoring a host of metrics – and also collecting new data on areas that matter to our people. Here, we provide a snapshot of how we’re improving our access to D&I data – as well as some highlights of what we have learnt

71% of colleagues agree or strongly agree that they work in an inclusive environment, according to our recent global culture benchmarking survey
Our UK pay gap report includes LGBTQ+ and disability data for the first time in 2021. View the latest report
1st Our first global survey of partners' diversity data ensures we have a better understanding of the diversity of our partnership across multiple dimensions
In 2021 we launched our new global D&I 101 training for all colleagues. We continue to build to our D&I training portfolio
74% of colleagues globally took part in our data sharing campaign helping to improve the quality of personal data held within the firm
3 new employee networks launched in 2021, bringing our total to 17 across the firm
Data also informs other rankings such as: Top 75 Social Mobility Index UK Gold Award HK LGBT+ Inclusion Index WILEF gold standard certification in the US
80+ internal D&I global events and training sessions were held, covering a range of issues including belonging, allyship and mental health
Expanded our external collaborations to share best practices and broaden our impact including hosting the first Legal CORE Think Tank, working with OUTLeadership and This Can Happen, joining Neurodiversity in Business

Selected highlights of the year

International Womens Day Beyond Allyship image
Prouder than ever image
World Mental Health Day 2021 logo image
Proud to be celebrating Black History Month 2021 Logo image
Heroes yahoo finance Women Role Model List 2021 logo
empower yahoo finance Ethnic Minority Role Model List 2021 image
outstanding yahoo finance LGBT+ Role Model List 2021 image
LGBT+ Gold Standard 2021 logo
Social Mobility Foundation Top 75 Employer logo
WILEF logo
Mansfield Rule logo