HR and people management

Promoting race inclusivity in the workplace: a toolkit for organisations

Diversity within organisations, and the legal profession, is paramount. However, inclusion, and how diverse individuals are accepted, supported and championed within a workplace, is equally important.

Culture is key for true inclusion and there are a number of ways to positively impact it to encourage authenticity from employees which, in turn, boosts productivity and morale alongside many other commercial benefits to your organisation.

Inclusion is good for business.

The landscape of racial diversity within the legal profession

Data from our annual statistics series shows a gradual increase in the number of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) solicitors in the profession.

In 1990, there were 709 solicitors who identified within the BAME group. In 2019, this number increased to 20,675.

The representation of BAME groups among solicitors has increased consistently every five years since 1994.

When looking at racial inclusion by regions, we see that the proportion of solicitors belonging to a BAME group was notably higher than that found in the working population of England and Wales (17% compared to 14% respectively).

Although the numbers indicate that the solicitors’ profession is representative of ethnic minority groups, BAME solicitors continue to be underrepresented within the large international law firms based in the City.

Representation of BAME solicitors was considerably lower in the City of London (14%) than the BAME representation across the City of London working population (26%).

The data may show a marked improvement in racial diversity over time. However, we still see a distinct lack of diversity and adequate representation when looking at individual ethnic groups.

In 2019, 10% of solicitors identified as Asian (not including Chinese) in comparison to 3% identifying as Black.

It’s vital that during monitoring of ethnic groups, each ethnicity is tracked individually. We must be able to identify the challenges of specific groups to ensure diversity is improved throughout the profession.

At partnership level, BAME solicitors were better represented in smaller firms than in larger firms; 35.6% of sole practitioners and 22.2% of partners in two-to-four partner firms were from BAME backgrounds compared to 6.5% of partners in the largest firms (81+ partners).

Solicitors from BAME backgrounds were marginally better represented in the broad in-house sector than in private practice, making up 19% of practising certificate (PC) holders within government, 19% of those working in other in-house organisations and 16% of private practitioners.

While some progress has been achieved in improving racial diversity, there is still a long way to go to build a profession that is truly, and equally, diverse.

We have seen some improvement in diversity at entry to the profession but retention and promotion remain barriers for many.

Inclusion is a key component to retaining staff, developing them and progressing them. It’s imperative we consider both diversity and inclusion in parallel to see meaningful change take root within the legal sector.

Practical tips on getting started

It’s vital that you openly and visibly welcome diversity during your recruitment.

Using inclusive language, imagery and ensuring your commitment to diversity and inclusion is obvious will help you attract a larger, more varied talent pool.

Auditing your current job adverts is one of the best ways to start your journey to recruiting diverse talent.

Make sure your webpages showcase workplace diversity, profiling a mix of different ethnicity groups, genders and disability. This is a great way to highlight that your company has an inclusive culture.

You may also consider implementing a referral programme. Creating a diverse candidate referral programme is a great way to utilise the networks of your BAME employees and boost your diversity recruitment.

Speak to your current recruitment agencies about their race diversity targets. Do they have any? What does their data tell you about the kind of talent they refer to organisations?

It’s important to diversify your talent pool by using a range of recruitment agencies alongside visiting a range of universities and for head-hunters looking for talent to work in-house.

Focus on maximising your pool of candidates by branching outside of the magic circle and larger firms.

Also, how diverse are your interview panels? Diversity during the interview process brings unique perspectives to the dialogue between interviews and interviewee.

Including Black, Asian and minority ethnic group employees on your interview panel can help candidates feel more comfortable and sends a message to prospective employees, and your current employees, at the organisation that you are committed to an inclusive culture.

Diversity monitoring is an important means of implementing and promoting diversity in the workplace. Use the data you collect to help you design or amend HR policies that will attract and retain a talented workforce.

By comparing data gathered from various parts of your organisation, you can identify where you could benefit from broadening the talent pool.

You can also contrast these figures with the wider labour market to get an idea of whether you urgently need to address equality within your workplace.

If so, you should investigate how and why this bias might have developed.

It may be useful to look at the proportion of BAME solicitors in your region and compare your BAME staff data against the local BAME population.

Target setting, when conducted properly, is a good way to keep organisations accountable and monitor progress.

How to set targets:

  • use the data to inform the targets you’re setting – for example, if data shows you a low proportion of Black men are recruited at associate level, this finding should be the basis of your target
  • have a clear, overall goal for targets to work
  • monitor the targets regularly to see if change is being made

When monitoring and objective setting for better race inclusion, it’s important that targets are not just set for BAME people as a whole, but also target specific groups within these groups.

Examples of initiatives and actions that work for similar organisations can help guide your target setting. Below is a list of case studies of firms and organisations who have announced their target setting goals.

Case studies

Allen & Overy

In July 2020, Allen & Overy announced a raft of new targets for its London business aimed at achieving greater ethnic diversity at every level of the firm.

The new targets are:

  • 15% ethnic minority partners by 2025
  • 25% ethnic minority lawyers and support staff by 2025
  • 35% ethnic minority trainees, including 10% Black trainees, each year
  • equalised retention rates for trainees lawyers, in particular retaining more Black associates

The firm used data collected internally to identify the challenges and set targets that are measurable.

For example, target 4 – equalised retention rates for trainee lawyers in particular Black associates.

The firm A&O’s ethnicity Stay Gap analysis, carried out by Pirical, found that Black, Asian and minority ethnic lawyers leave the firm seven months earlier than their White colleagues and that Black lawyers leave two years and five months earlier than their White counterparts. The firm has committed to publishing its updated ethnicity Stay Gap every year.

Target setting should have a clear aim that can be achieved within a time frame.


Linklaters announced its targets setting goals starting from its 2020/2021 recruitment cycle.

The new targets are:

  • 35% ethnic minority trainees in the UK, including 10% Black trainees, each year
  • 15% Black and minority ethnic group representation at partnership level

In order for the firm to monitor the targets, it has formed a Black Diversity Council to hold the firm to account on progress, train staff on anti-racism over the next 12 months and hold all partners and directors accountable for racial diversity in their practices and teams.

Mentoring is a constructive, cost effective way to invest in the development of your employees, while allowing positive relationships to form between colleagues and improving inclusion in tandem.

Due to many variables, including unconscious and conscious biases, ethnic minority employees may not receive the same organic and informal support as their White colleagues. It’s up to an organisation to formalise mentoring and ensure mentoring opportunities are afforded equally.

Benefits of mentoring for employees include:

  • improving communications and interpersonal skills
  • building personal and professional confidence
  • establishing goals and understanding how to achieve them
  • learning from experience and gaining invaluable insights
  • becoming more empowered and fulfilled
  • active contribution to an inclusive culture

When pairing mentors and mentees, it’s useful to consider how the relationship can be mutually beneficial.

Reverse mentoring is just as important and a great way to ensure all staff of varying levels of seniority have access to development opportunities.

Staff networks are a fantastic form of peer support made up of a group of likeminded, similar people who have a shared experience and understanding of your organisation, the culture and the issues.

Give employees a forum to discuss and address challenges they may be facing and take their observations and resolutions into consideration.

Staff networks can either be characteristic focused, often set up to address problems with the support or general experience of a group of people, or they can be set up to work through specific issues.

It’s important that these networks include people of varying seniority, from across an organisation.

Tips for getting a staff network started:

  • plainly set out the purpose and aims of the network before it’s launched
  • be clear in your advertising that the network is staff led and each member will have a valued role in contributing to the work of the network
  • invite staff of all levels of seniority to participate and from all areas of the business
  • plan in frequent meetings with robust agendas to keep members engaged

Case study

Addleshaw Goddard

Inclusion partners across Addleshaw Goddard’s ethnicity work stream have worked with other partners and the HR team to look at how they can build a BAME network and establish initiatives with meaningful outcomes.

  • Addleshaw Goddard is closer to establishing a fully operational BAME network
  • The firm knows which employees are interested in deepening their involvement with BAME initiatives
  • There is a more open culture in terms of sponsorship and support
  • Feedback has been excellent from both internal and external events
  • Completion of an internal diversity audit has increased in terms of self-declaration

Anyone can be an ally and they can exist in many capacities.

Being an ally is an eternal dedication to supporting marginalised people and communities by consistently raising awareness of issues and challenges, taking accountability, amplifying the voices of minority groups, and actively working against discrimination and inequality.

Allies are needed to support, build confidence in and amplify the voices and inequalities minority groups face.

Among many other things, your role as an ally could include:

  • educating yourself on the inequalities and obstacles faced by minority communities
  • listening without judgement to perspectives and experiences
  • actively advocating for change for marginalised groups within your workplace, and in wider society
  • sharing development opportunities with others and/or creating these opportunities (for example, mentoring colleagues)
  • reflecting on your biases and how they may influence you
  • offering the advantages of your privilege to others
  • accepting your mistakes and learning from them

Marking dates from the diversity calendar throughout the year is a great and easy way to show a dedication to inclusion.

Dates like religious festivals, month-long celebrations of particular characteristics (for example, Pride) and individual days focused on specific groups (for example, International Women’s Day) are all opportunities to offer personalised support, share information, signpost to resources and acknowledge and celebrate intersectionality.

There are several ways to mark the diversity calendar, appreciating and recognising the diversity of your employees in conjunction.

These include:

Sharing resources on internal hubs

These resources could be guidance for personalised issues, signposting to external support groups or charities or information on the date: for example, an explanation of Black History Month and suggestions on how all staff can get involved.

Organising internal and external events

Present opportunities for all employees to be part of the diversity calendar, allowing those who are not directly affected, or allies, to also learn more about the date and what it represents.

Learning and awareness are vital to realising progress and change; try to contribute to this where possible.

Suggestions for events could include:

  • panel sessions – organise an event bringing together a panel of racially diverse speakers. The topics could range from success stories and getting into leadership roles to intersectionality
  • diversity workshops – ideas might include ‘bringing your whole self to work’ or ‘let’s talk about race’
  • guest speaker spotlights – invite an ethnic minority guest speaker from the legal or non-legal sector to talk about their career
  • Black History Month (BHM) quiz – raise money for a race equality charity by hosting a social quiz
  • intersectional events – listen to and engage with the experiences of those with more than one minority identity
  • food celebrations – invite staff to bring in dishes from their culture, for example hosting a Caribbean or Indian lunch
  • religious and cultural festivals – recognise and celebrate festivals such as Diwali and Eid
  • book club – this could focus on work by Black, Asian and minority ethnic authors

Digital and physical celebrations

Marking the diversity calendar with digital content shared on social media is a time and resource efficient way to show your organisation’s allegiance and support for minority groups, diverse issues and inclusion.

Similarly, a physical display (such as flying a Black History Month or Pride flag from your office building) is an easy way to mark dates.

Calendar resources

Inclusive Employers

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)

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