Diversity Access Scheme: Q&A with Bethan Owen
We speak to Bethan Owen, Partner at Kingsley Napley LLP (KN), about the firm's involvement in the Law Society’s Diversity Access Scheme: a sponsorship in honour of their late colleague Brandusa Tataru-Marinescu.
What sort of things do KN do to encourage diversity and inclusion within the firm?
Diversity and inclusion (D&I) are both very important to Kingsley Napley.
Our senior and managing partners actively drive it from the top, and the firm's culture and values are based on it too.
We have numerous groups and initiatives, including R.E.A.C.H. (race, ethnicity and cultural heritage) and Allies, KN Families, LGBTQ+ and Allies and more.
We have very active D&I committees and subgroups, and have also partnered with Rare Recruitment, a recruitment consultancy firm that aims to improve diversity and social mobility for our future trainees.
Having these D&I initiatives is a great way of communicating with the firm’s partners.
Partners can listen to the groups, improve our culture and ensure these discussions continue. For example, at a recent partners meeting, we focused on cognitive differences and neurodiversity and how we can bring that into leadership and management.
Kingsley Napley focus on both diversity and inclusion.
I think some people only focus on diversity, but inclusion is important too. You can bring in a diverse group of people into your business, but you need to make sure everyone's included, so they stay with the firm.
Is KN’s commitment to D&I evident within the working culture?
Being on the inside, you would know that D&I is extremely important to our firm, and that we're not just paying lip service to it.
It’s a core value, and individuals across the firm get involved.
I’m heavily involved in the charities group, just because that’s what I’ve always been interested in.
Under the umbrella of the Diversity Access Scheme, KN offers support through sponsorship, mentoring and work experience that pays tribute to your late colleague Brandusa Tataru-Marinescu. Why is this particular award so important to her legacy?
I got involved with the Diversity Access Scheme (DAS) because of Brandusa.
She was Kingsley Napley’s first ever specialist, non-contentious construction lawyer.
From her arrival at the firm, Brandusa championed social mobility, D&I, and supporting people in the workspace. She was passionate about it all.
She spoke at a partners’ meeting about cognitive diversity a few years ago, long before it became the bigger conversation that it is now. She was ahead of where we all should have been and now we’re all catching up.
When Brandusa was diagnosed terminally ill last September, we wanted to do something as a tribute to her. We decided to make a Kingsley Napley award in her name.We started sorting the sponsorship before she died, and I had a long conversation with her about how she wanted it to look.
Brandusa always wanted to make a difference. We wanted to show that she had done and will continue to do so. That's why it was so important that we created this legacy for her.
We found out about the DAS through our research on how to start the sponsorship. We read through the aims and objectives and who can apply for it, and found it was exactly what we wanted to do. It was almost perfect.
We had a meeting with the Law Society and the Law Society suggested that we could do the award as part of the DAS. This was brilliant because it meant the award would be able to reach a much larger network of people.
What sort of experience and support are you planning to provide to the scholarship awardee?
At the moment, we’re helping the awardee review their CV.
We're going to be focusing on interviewing skills next, where we will ‘interview’ them and then help them improve their answers.
Quite often people don’t realise the amazing qualities they have that are worth telling a potential employer about, so this exercise shows them what law firms are looking for.
We will be assisting the awardee with applications for training contracts, paralegal jobs and any other questions they may have.
We're going to provide work experience. This is so important as, for many of jobs, unless you’ve got work experience, they will not even look at you.
Also, a lot of people will not even have been in an office before, but we’re also enabling the awardee to do this virtually if they are not able to come to London.
The experience will help them build a network, which they would not always easily be able to do because, in many professions, it often is who you know.
What benefits do KN hope to get from being a part of the DAS?
Participating in the DAS signals our commitment to our staff that we are invested in D&I. You also get to find the gems and discover a broad range of talent.
Because of the culture at KN, our people do expect us to be involved with these sorts of schemes, and our people wanted to get involved in it. That helps us attract and retain people if you are shown to be a decent law firm and one that helps people out.
We're in a very privileged position where we can offer this. Yes, it takes time and effort, but I think that everyone has a responsibility to play their part.
What advice would you give to a firm that’s thinking of offering support through the DAS?
Working with the DAS has been a very smooth process.
We're a busy law firm, and we were able to get involved because the Law Society took care of the admin.
The DAS has a much wider reach than individual law firms, so you're getting out to more people.
It's a good support network to have, and the scheme had amazing candidates. The more firms that are involved, the more people can be helped.