Impact story: increasing inclusion at Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance set out to make inclusion intrinsic by adopting a campaigning approach that has dramatically increased people’s reported sense of inclusion. This impact story looks at how the firm applied its global inclusion strategy in the UK.
A diverse group of colleagues standing in an office, smiling and talking animatedly.

The challenge

We set out to make inclusion intrinsic to everything the firm does and how our people behave – to each other, to clients and in society generally.

Inclusion cannot be an ‘extra’ or something only talked about in client pitches and around key diversity and inclusion (D&I) calendar dates – it needs to be lived by everyone.

We knew we could not provide the best legal advice without diversity of thought; and being able to attract and retain those supplying it.

As well as being a core value of the firm and the law generally, inclusion is core to being an economically successful firm.

The action taken


Three years ago, we adopted a strategic approach focused on three areas of change:

  • change the rules – to constantly review all our rules to ensure equality for everyone by, for example, setting bespoke inclusion targets at all levels that were achievable and relevant for each practice area
  • change the culture – to build a place where all can thrive by, for example, our new Code of Conduct including speaking up
  • change the lived experience – to identify barriers and remove them through initiatives such as reverse mentoring

Our strategy aims to:

  • increase the understanding and support for inclusion as a core value – initial research suggested around 50% of our employees said they felt included and that the firm valued inclusion
  • have our workforce better represent society and the legal sector, as benchmarked against the most relevant data set (whether the university, general working or legal sector population)
  • deliver an equality of opportunity and experience for our people in an inclusive culture

Taking a campaigning approach

To drive this work forward, a campaigning approach was essential.

This strategy reflects our belief that inclusion is more than a set of rules – it is a major social change in how we approach our lives and work.

Our firm culture is constantly being built by what we choose to do and choose not to do. If we believe in inclusion, we need to be prepared to help shape, champion and defend it.

We aim to provide campaigns that inspire, empower, and activate people to see each of us as the solution, not the barrier to, inclusion.

We launched a permanent inclusion campaign to maintain visibility and increase engagement across the firm by getting everyone to be active and demonstrate inclusive values.

We wanted everyone to move from talking about unconscious bias and instead towards conscious advocacy.

We acknowledged that the campaign has no finish line and is constantly changing, so the journey needed to be joyful, engaging and motivating. This also built on our history of challenging and pushing boundaries.

Action plan

Establishing a clear rationale helped us to create our action plan. Within the three areas of our strategy, this approach was manifested in several ways.

We set ‘5-15-30’ targets in July 2020, with the aim that by 2025:

  • 5% partners are LGBT+
  • 15% new partners and 30% senior associates and business managers and above from ethnic minority background
  • 30% female partners

To improve transparency in our communications, we are publishing data, targets and organisational commitments to D&I.

With senior leadership backing, we put resource into D&I including:

  • establishing a dedicated UK inclusion team
  • including D&I activities within time recording
  • working with partners to define what inclusion looks like in their area and supporting them to make that happen

We introduced an inclusion objective into our appraisal system, so all staff are monitored and reviewed on how they put inclusion into practice.

Similarly, all partners and directors have a key inclusion objective to participate in our reverse mentoring programme.

Staff affinity networks were given budgets and at least two senior executive sponsors. Their work is now formally recognised in performance reviews, and members are involved in awareness raising, target setting and reviewing/developing policies.

Our peer-to-peer ‘self-ID’ campaign aimed to help staff understand why responding to employee data questions matters and what difference it makes.

This included building trust that data is anonymised and treated safely and securely. For example, managers are encouraged to show new and existing colleagues the data they themselves have shared with the firm.

We also signed up for the Mansfield Rule, an initiative that requires at least 30% of those considered for leadership roles and other progression opportunities to be from underrepresented groups.

All actions are clearly set out, with timescales, measurements and responsibility defined in collaboration with our affinity groups.

Ensuring performance

Our inclusion committee is made up of senior management, business professionals and affinity group chairs. There are two co-chairs – one a lawyer and one not.

We are on our third iteration of this committee. Membership is reviewed every two years, performance assessed, and improvements made.

The result

The impact has delivered success in several key areas:

  • our people's perception of firm support for inclusion has increased significantly
  • our people feel more included, as measured by our engagement surveys
  • the UK workforce is more representative and data response rates for self-ID are higher

We also recognise that there is much more to do and that the first phase of the campaign has helped us raise awareness of support for inclusion, increase support for inclusion and activity levels.

This has helped position us for the next phase of the campaign, where we must accelerate progress in outcomes such as retention and promotion rates across our teams.

Measuring the impact

We launched a PULSE survey for the UK offices to sense check how inclusive people feel their offices are and to ask for solutions.

In the staff satisfaction survey, the score for feeling included in the organisation jumped from the 50s into the high 80s in three years and recorded year-on-year increases in overall response rates.

We have either exceeded our targets or are on track to meet these. In 2022, we had 5.4% LGBT+ partners, 25% new partners from an ethnic minority background and 28.5% female partners.

Next steps

We recognise that whilst a lot has been done there is much more to do. We have reviewed our UK targets and set new ones. By 2025, we aim to have:

  • 15% new ethnic minority partners
  • 30% ethnic minority senior associates/senior professionals at manager level
  • 30% women partners – rising to 41% by 2030

We are working to improve our data for disability and social mobility so targets can be set.

In relation to class, we are taking an intersectional approach to how it intersects with other characteristics in creating barriers to access and inclusion. A staff action group has been formed to devise a strategy.

Further work on the often-neglected protected characteristics of age and religion/belief will start shortly.

Our tips

Many people will say “but you’re Clifford Chance and you have the people and resources for all this work”.

But organisations of any size can:

  • be clear about what you are trying to achieve
  • agree a realistic strategy for your organisation and parts of it; and regularly review this
  • genuinely involve your people with lived experiences (as individuals, if not affinity groups)
  • energise and motivate people by adopting a campaigning approach of collective responsibility
  • make everyone inclusion advocates – for themselves, as an ally, as a mentor or as an ambassador for change


All views expressed in this article belong to the author, not the Law Society.

Create lasting change in your firm

The diversity and inclusion framework is a systematic approach to developing and delivering a diversity and inclusion strategy.

It has simple steps you can follow, tangible actions you can take and regular checkpoints to help you monitor your progress.

We are also gathering impact stories from across the legal sector to share learning of what has worked and help others plan actions.

Get in touch with the team to share your impact story

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