Diversity and Inclusion Annual Review 2022
Diversity and Inclusion Annual Review 2022
Diversity and Inclusion Annual Review 2022
Diversity and Inclusion Annual Review 2022
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
• 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
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.
(top left – bottom right) Gender Equality Network event; Black History Month - Alex Scott event; Jewish Network Holocaust Memorial event; LGBTQ+ event
Our networks play an important role in creating an environment where everyone feels they belong
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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