Let's talk Racial Diversity: Senior lawyers discuss ways to dismantle barriers to ethnic and racial diversity in the legal sector
London, 25 November 2020: A group of leading law firms, hosted by the law firm RPC, discussed this morning ways in which the legal sector - not as representative of society as it could be - could be doing more to identify and dismantle the barriers that may exist to ethnic and racial diversity.
The forum addressed some of the fundamental questions around racial diversity in the legal sector:
- What barriers exist to improving ethnic and racial diversity in the legal sector?
- How can the current barriers in the legal sector be dismantled?
- What solutions can be the launching pad for a more inclusive and racially diverse legal sector?
The talk was hosted by RPC's Director of People and Talent Development Rachel Street and Head of the firm's Ethnicity Work Stream (EWS) Parham Kouchikali. Guest speakers included:
- Segun Osuntokun, managing partner of BCLP (London)
- Yindi Gesinde, Baker McKenzie London partner
- Dr Marianne Blattes, Senior Researcher of the Bridge Group
Commenting on today's thought-provoking and solutions-focused discussion, Parham Kouchikali, Commercial Disputes partner and Head of RPC's internal Ethnicity Work Stream (EWS) said:
"The lack of racial diversity in the legal profession - especially at a senior level - is a widely recognised issue in the legal sector. Whilst significant inroads are being made, there is much to do at a practical level. There is clearly a desire to act and it is my view that only through a collective and concerted effort can we begin to see change. A forum like this is much needed to work together with other law firms and to tackle the issues together."
Adding to this, Segun Osuntokun, managing partner of BCLP said:
"I am delighted to have taken part in RPC’s discussion on racial diversity this morning. As we work towards a more diverse and inclusive legal profession it really is important that, collectively, we work to address longstanding systemic issues. These conversations are important, but they must be converted into action. It is a team effort and those of us already in senior positions within the industry must do what we can to make a difference. These forums are invaluable, and I look forward to continuing the conversation. "
In a similar vein, Yindi Gesinde, partner of Baker McKenzie said:
"This year, there has been more energy and focus on the issue of racial diversity in the legal sector than ever before. It is imperative that law firms maintain and harness this energy and turn it into tangible action. I am excited about this initiative and I am sure that it will provide a useful forum for sharing best practices about how to recruit, retain and - importantly - progress ethnic minority talent."
RPC's approach to racial diversity:
We are an equal opportunities employer. We want the best people working with us – irrespective of their ethnic or cultural background, skin colour or any other characteristic for that matter. But we also recognise that certain privileges exist for some groups which has created a lack of representation, particularly at senior levels within firms, ours included.
While we continue to stress the importance internally of allyship, anti-racism, active diversity campaigns, mentorship and sponsorship we know that more can be done to improve the racial diversity of our people. The Black Lives Matter movement was an important reminder that we, as a firm and an industry, cannot be complacent in our efforts to even the playing field and promote access for everyone.