“At Herbert Smith Freehills, we don’t expect our people to be or think the same – indeed, diversity and inclusion drive our success and the innovative solutions we deliver with our clients. That’s why fostering an inclusive culture where our people can be themselves, contribute their perspectives and perform roles which are meaningful and aligned to our shared values is a core business priority” – Justin D’Agostino, CEO.
Creating a sense of community and belonging is an important role for our diversity networks, which exist across the firm, including for gender, LGBT+, ethnicity and cultural diversity, family and carer responsibility, disability, mental health and veterans and armed forces & social mobility. Our networks offer mentoring and networking opportunities, advocate for changes in policy, collaborate with our clients and encourage allies to take a stand for others. They lie at the very heart of Leading for Inclusion.
Our vision is to be the leading global law firm for diversity and inclusion.
From bold and ambitious targets to drive gender diversity across our leadership and launching market-leading parental policies in Asia; to improving ethnic minority representation across our offices and developing a truly global approach to mental health and wellbeing and leadership on LGBT+ advocacy.
Our vision is ambitious and global. We recognise the power of diversity and inclusion to drive innovation, collaboration and business outcomes. By enabling our people to be their unique selves every day - we are Leading for Inclusion.
Our approach to diversity and inclusion is driven by our Leading for Inclusion 2018-21 strategy.
The successful implementation of our diversity and inclusion strategy relies on a structure that creates a consistent and inclusive global experience.
Our vision is to:
- Attract and retain top talent from a diverse range of people and enable them to perform to their full potential
- Engage with our clients via our diversity and inclusion programmes and be best placed to meet the needs of a diverse client base across global markets
- Innovate for our clients and our business through the contribution of diverse perspectives
- Enable all our people to connect, collaborate, excel and lead to create a global inclusive culture
Read more about our structure and governance.
Our diversity networks are a key way of engaging our people in our diversity and inclusion programmes and delivering our objectives.
Read more about our diversity networks.
Despite many years of valuable work and progress, the tragic killing of George Floyd in May 2020 made us realise that we were not where we wanted to be as a firm, nor where we should be, in our ethnic representation or our progress in dismantling systemic racism.
After consulting across the firm, we established 10 action areas to improve representation, support and experience for its Black, First Nations, Asian and minority ethnic colleagues.
Our aim is to become an anti-racist organisation, and are committed to confronting the deep-seated inequities from which no society or business is exempt.
Herbert Smith Freehills’ Regional Executives are responsible for ensuring these new commitments are acted upon across the firm’s 27 offices. Each Action is backed by a plan and interpreted locally and regionally to reflect local challenges, cultures and legal nuances.
OUR FIRM’S 10 ACTIONS FOR CHANGE
- Address barriers to the recruitment of Black, First Nations, Asian and minority ethnic people
- Improve retention of Black, First Nations, Asian and minority ethnic colleagues, and improve representation in more senior roles
- Deliver anti-racism workshops in addition to global D&I programmes
- Better inform and track our approach through robust data collection and analysis, and target-setting where appropriate
- Invest in research and continue listening to our people (including leavers) and communities
- Engage meaningfully with our clients on anti-racism
- Increase mentoring and work experience opportunities for young people from Black, First Nations, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds
- Support diversity within our supply chain and support businesses and social enterprises owned by Black, First Nations, Asian and minority ethnic people
- Increase pro bono support for organisations that address racial inequality
- Hold regional executives accountable for progress on ethnic diversity
ENSURING OWNERSHIP AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Ensuring ownership and accountability for change is spread throughout the firm is essential to the success of our Leading for Inclusion strategy. While our D&I team lead implementation of our strategy, ultimate responsibility sits with the Global Executive. Moreover, a large proportion of our partnership have specific objectives related to D&I and our practice group leaders are responsible for ensuring a diverse talent pipeline and inclusive leadership within their teams.
Since the introduction of the 10 Actions for Change in 2020, each of the firm’s regional executive groups are responsible for planning and implementing actions to improve performance under each of the 10 Actions.
DEVELOPING FLUENCY AND CONFIDENCE
Our Multiculturalism Networks across the firm lead on some of the actions we take to promote awareness, education and connection. In each region, they comprise a diverse group of individuals committed to making lasting change, and engaging the firm’s people and clients.
Our networks have developed innovative initiatives such as reverse mentoring with our UK Executive, which creates a greater focus, awareness and fluency on ethnicity, while our Asia Multicultural network launched a unique and inspiring video series, uncovering how the region’s different cultures, histories and languages have moulded the participants’ experiences and outlooks.
SPONSORSHIP AND MENTORING
Our practice groups and business services teams actively sponsor and mentor top talent, including those from underrepresented backgrounds. In London, BAME trainees and future joiners are offered mentors from our Multiculturalism Network, which has also recently launched an informal mentoring programme for anyone within the office.
RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION
We are actively working towards overcoming bias in our recruitment and retention systems.
In Australia and the UK we partner with organisations such as Rare Recruitment, who are specialists in recruiting and supporting candidates from a diverse range of backgrounds.
In London through our work on campus and with external partners, including Aspiring Solicitors, we are increasing our engagement with ethnic minority candidates.
We ensure that our recruiters, vacation scheme supervisors and graduate recruitment partners participate in unconscious bias training.
Data from our candidate platform is used to assess our policies and processes for recruitment and attraction and to address any processes that might disproportionately impact underrepresented groups. The enhancement in data collection – our fourth action for change – will enable even greater progress to be made.
SUPPORTING OUR COMMUNITIES
We are committed to working with the communities in which we operate.
In the UK and the US, our pro bono work supports issues relating to social mobility and domestic and family violence, tackling some of the systemic issues related to racial injustice and discrimination.
In Australia, our colleagues at the Shopfront Youth Legal Centre challenge the use and misuse of police powers, including for their young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients. Read more about our Reconciliation Action Plan here.
People should feel able to raise concerns – that's why we provide a third-party and entirely anonymous whistle-blowing service to all our people. Our International Standards of Conduct detail our individual and institutional responsibilities to behave with respect and dignity.
ONWARDS AND UPWARDS
Read Onwards and Upwards – a publication launched during Black History Month 2021 to showcase and celebrate the thoughts and experiences of the Black community, from both within the firm and externally
Check out Reflections from a Community – our publication from 2020.
We set targets in 2014 in order to increase the proportion and number of women in our partnership and as part of our commitment to having a leading inclusive culture.
Since launching our first targets in 2014, the number of women in the partnership has increased by 67%.
Our targets are:
- By 1 May 2023, women will comprise 35% of:
- partners; and
- partner leadership roles.
Some of the initiatives we’ve undertaken to increase the gender balance in our partnership include:
- Addressing unconscious bias and developing our inclusive leadership capability to create an inclusive culture
- Scrutiny of our talent pipeline to ensure we are developing all of our talent to success through development support, mentoring and sponsorship
- Creating more flexibility through agile working
- Focusing on what every partner can do to make a difference
Our global IRIS (LGBT+ and Ally) Network aims to promote and advocate for LGBT+ diversity and inclusion with the firm, to enhance our culture and client relationships.
We do so through raising awareness, collaboration with other networks and our clients, promoting visible and diverse role models, contributing to thought leadership, advocacy and best practice, supporting the communities in which we operate and ensuring that, across the network, our people feel safe and supported.
Our network has supported:
- Re-launching our Trans and Non-Binary Guidelines, with a focus on non-binary inclusion and enhancing the support available to individuals, including by offering 1:1 coaching;
- The decriminalisation of homosexuality and LGBT+ rights across the world, through our pro bono work;
- A global mobility project looking into the experiences of LGBT+ people who travel/relocate with business and the support needed;
- Work to ensure that our medical providers are fully LGBT+ inclusive;
- A legal battle to win the right to spousal visa for same-sex couples in Hong Kong; and
- Open Doors in Australia to deliver services to LGBT+ young people with a range of needs including, homelessness, mental health, alcohol and drug counselling and suicide prevention.
Throughout Pride month 2020, we adopted a rainbow logo as a visible reflection of our advocacy in respect of LGBT+ inclusion and our long-standing commitment to our LGBT+ people, clients and communities.
In our most recent Global Diversity Audit, 18% of people reported having experienced a disability in the last five years. One in ten considered themselves to have a disability, injury or long-term health condition. We recognise the importance of being a disability inclusive employer, and our Ability Network provides a forum for communication, peer support and education, which is key to achieving this aim.
Earlier this year, we signed up to the Valuable 500 – a global movement of leading organisations committed to putting disability inclusion on the business agenda. As part of which we committed to:
- Improving access to and understanding of workplace adjustments;
- Empowering, educating and providing support that enables all of our people to talk openly about mental health;
- Champion the recruitment and retention of those with autism; and
- Ensuring our workplace is more inclusive and accessible for people with disabilities.
We are also members of PurpleSpace and IncludeAbility - a group of leading organisations convened by the Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner.
Mental Health and Wellbeing
In 2018 we launched our global commitment to health and wellbeing, underlining the firm's commitment to helping our people prioritise their health and wellbeing and reinforcing a supportive, respectful and inclusive culture.
We are taking positive steps to raise awareness, promote greater health and wellbeing and provide training and support. On World Mental Health Day we demonstrated our support with a series of events throughout the firm including by sharing some of our stories.
Watch the full This is Me video series here
In June 2020, we joined leading organisations, mental health advocates and experts from across the world to support Speak Your Mind's call on governments to ensure that mental health is integrated into all Covid-19 responses.
THRIVE - OUR VISION FOR MENTAL HEALTH
In October 2019, we launched our first global mental health strategy – Thrive. This strategy will drive our activity throughout the firm, with a focus on culture, prevention and access to support to enable optimal mental health for everyone.
For more information please contact Danielle Kelly.
How We Work Guidelines – driving sustainable working practices
Our How We Work guidelines create an explicit link between a high performance culture, individual wellbeing and more efficient, balanced and sustainable ways of working. They cover a number of areas, including promoting smart meetings, mindful emailing, better conversations and embracing agile and flexible working.
MENTAL HEALTH PODCASTS
Listen to Head of Diversity & Inclusion, Danielle Kelly, in conversation with Wellness Daily about the firm's journey on health and wellbeing and what we're doing to better connect individuals with the underlying purpose and mission of the firm.
Listen to Partner and Chair of our Indian Practice, Chris Parsons in conversation with the Law Society about the importance of mental health and wellbeing in the legal sector and his own personal story.
We monitor our progress by participating in market benchmarks, and benchmark ourselves against industry best practice. We are proud of the following achievements:
Financial Times Most Innovative International Law Firm in Asia Pacific 2019
Financial Times Award for Innovation in Diversity & Inclusion 2019.
'Community Business DIAN Decade Awards for Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in Asia 2018'
Stonewall Top 100 Employers (2009 - 2018)
Pride in Diversity Australian Workplace Equality Index Silver Tier employer (2018)
Social Mobility Employer Index, Top 50 (2017-2018)
The Times Top 50 Employers for Women (2015 - 2017)
Employer of Choice for Gender Equality - Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency [a statutory government agency] (2016- 2017)
GradAustralia &The Australian Top 100 Graduate Employer, number one Legal Sector Recruiter (2015 - 2017)
Lawyers Weekly Employer of Choice Survey - number one “attraction firm” for potential employees (2015 - 2017)
Morgan Stanley Asia Pacific Outside Counsel Diversity Award (2017)
Stonewall Global Employers for LGBT inclusion (2015 - 2017)
Working with Pride Index – Gold Ranking (2017)
Community Business Hong Kong LGBT + Inclusion Index since 2015, achieved Gold Standard in 2019