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LGBT+ firm mentoring scheme

17 July 2019

Alongside the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Stonewall, we supported a scheme whereby law firms had the opportunity to receive free mentoring on developing their approaches to LGBT+ inclusivity.

This ground-breaking firm mentoring scheme facilitated the sharing of good practice in the solicitor’s profession.

The scheme offered mentoring to small and medium sized law firms in England and Wales, sharing best practice and providing guidance about creating an LGBT+ friendly workplace.

Those who signed up were supported in attracting the best people, as well as other business benefits such as increased networking opportunities.

The mentors, all of whom are top performing law firms in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, provided their mentee firms with an average of two hours of free support and guidance every month.

Firms were encouraged to share ideas and experiences, and these will feed in to guidance we are looking to publish so as to benefit other firms.

One year on, and to mark Pride Season, we are sharing some of their stories.

Read what has been achieved from this innovative scheme and the impact it has made.

EMG Solicitors and Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner – empowered to deliver change

 
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Background

EMG Solicitors has a team of 37 employees who work hard to make sure they look after, listen to and train their people. They promote openness and conversation amongst their teams.

They were keen to sign up to the LGBT+ mentoring scheme and develop their approach to LGBT+ inclusivity. They were mentored by Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP).

The mentoring scheme helped them to develop a safe, friendly and inclusive workplace culture where everyone can be themselves.

They found the support and regular contact offered by BCLP instrumental in driving through change on inclusion and LGBT+.

What they did

  • Won full support from senior leaders and directors to be part of the mentoring scheme
  • Set up an empowerment, diversity and inclusion team
  • Carried out a firm-wide questionnaire on equality, diversity and inclusion
  • Redrafted client documentation to make sure it was inclusive
  • Delivered a presentation to all staff on inclusivity which covered several areas but had a specific focus on LGBT+. This was well received and helped to ensure that inclusivity is recognised as one of their core values
  • Supported LGBT+ inclusivity on all their social media platforms
  • Sponsored Pride Radio at two Pride events with staff members contributing to broadcasts

Next steps

  • Support local community campaigns against homophobia and hate crime
  • Create links with local LGBT+ charities to see what support they can offer
  • Secure an entry into the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index
  • Look at inclusivity so they not only promote LGBT+ inclusivity but also consider other minority groups to make sure their approach to inclusivity is overarching

Quote

“Here at EMG, we fully appreciate and actively ensure that our clients and colleagues are always treated with the utmost respect and dignity. However, as with everything, there is always room for improvement.

“I hope that the more we develop our understanding, the better we will be as a firm at supporting those colleagues and clients we have from the LGBT community”.

Emma Gaudern, managing director

Horwich Farrelly Solicitors and Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner  – improving inclusion for everyone

 
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Background

Horwich Farrelly is a defendant insurance law firm, with over 750 people working in multiple locations across the UK.

They signed up to the LGBT+ mentoring scheme and partnered with Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) to share experiences, ideas and challenges, and have the support to try new things.

The firm was proud of the level of diversity they had achieved organically, but they were also keen to do as much as they could to ensure that there were no barriers to employees being able to succeed and feel comfortable in being themselves at work.

What they did

  • Created a diversity and inclusion steering group to support inclusivity for all
  • Developed an action plan to look closely at any diversity challenges the firm faced
  • Reviewed recruitment and progression processes to remove unconscious bias
  • Used various channels to communicate their commitment to improving inclusion for all, and to facilitate progression to senior roles for under-represented groups
  • Signed up to the Inclusive Insurers Pledge and Race at Work Charter
  • Committed to communicating and celebrating LGBT+ events in the future

Next steps

  • Launch a network of diversity champions
  • Publish an external-facing commitment on diversity and inclusion
  • Work towards completing the Stonewall UK Workplace Equality Index.

Quote

“We recognise that meaningful change takes time, and that there is no quick fix for us or, indeed, any firm when it comes to equality, inclusion and diversity. We are pleased to have taken part in the LGBT+ mentoring scheme and can already see the internal benefits.

Achieving equality, inclusion and diversity across our business is tremendously important to Horwich Farrelly, and partnerships such as this help us to deliver on our commitments in this area.”

Thomas Reynard, chief operating officer and member of the diversity and inclusion steering group

Lester Aldridge and Baker McKenzie – learning together with staff and senior leaders

 
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Background

Lester Aldridge has 327 employees servicing both corporate and individual clients in a wide variety of business areas.

The firm believes in equality and diversity for everyone – employees and clients. It is committed to equality of opportunity and is fully dedicated to promoting a working environment where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

To help it do this, Lester Aldridge joined the LGBT+ mentoring scheme and was partnered with Baker McKenzie. Theirs has been a very fluid relationship and they have worked together on wider general issues, as well as targeted LGBT+ initiatives.

What they did

  • Identified what they as a firm could realistically achieve – given they were very much in the early stages of raising awareness and implementing change on LGBT+
  • Improved communication with employees, as while the firm saw itself as an inclusive employer, its employees did not see it that clearly
  • Supported the development of action plans and encouraged the launch of employee groups and engagement activity
  • Improved senior leadership buy in
  • Recruited several volunteers to get involved with Pride
  • Increased focus on LGBT+ issues in the firm’s equality and diversity committee

Next steps

  • Recruit ‘diversity ambassadors’ – an idea that evolved from a suggestion of Baker McKenzie
  • Make sure there is long-lasting and sustainable cultural change
  • Get involved in two Pride celebrations
  • Give out rainbow lanyards to those who would like to wear them
  • Develop a three-year equality, diversity and inclusion plan

Quote

“It has been very beneficial to draw from our mentor firm’s significant experience over the past 12 months, and to be given the flexibility to work at a suitable pace.”

Michelle Ripsold, head of human resources

MSB Solicitors and DWF – leading from the top

 
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Background

MSB is a law firm with more than 120 people. They are committed to eliminating discrimination and promoting equality and diversity.

They see diversity and inclusion as needing to be at the top of its agenda, until such time as it no longer needs to be.

As part of this commitment, MSB joined the LGBT+ mentoring scheme as a way of doing more.

They welcomed the chance to show the legal profession of what could be achieved when law firms work together. They were mentored by DWF LLP.

What they did

  • MSB’s managing partner, Emma Carey, took personal charge of the relationship and ensured the whole firm was committed to making the mentoring scheme work
  • Set clear objectives at the beginning of the relationship, and regularly reviewed progress against these
  • DWF LLP shared their resources and guided MSB on how they could be adapted for a smaller workforce. It was helpful to bounce ideas off with DWF who had experience of which activities and initiatives might bring about a wider impact
  • Made sure there was an LGBT+ representative on the firm’s diversity and inclusion group
  • Marched together at Manchester Pride, with colleagues networking with one another
  • Adapted their approach to recruitment, to attract diverse applicants
  • Collaborated on community engagement with the Navajo Merseyside & Cheshire LGBT Charter Mark, Liverpool Pride and visiting students in all three Liverpool universities

Next steps

  • Work together on a joint allies event.
  • Use learning and ideas from the scheme to help other protected characteristic groups.

Quote

“Often it is the big firms which are seen to be doing things in the area of equality, diversity and inclusion. In fact, all the work, initiatives and policies can be implemented in small and medium firms too – this does work, and it must.

“We quickly developed a good rapport with DWF. This meant the experience was fun, as well as extremely useful, and the project has been a catalyst to advance equality, diversity and inclusion at the firm more widely”.

Emma Carey, managing partner

If you would like to know more, or could be interested in getting involved in future similar projects, email LGBT@lawsociety.org.uk.

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