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Diversity and Inclusion

Leading for inclusion


“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.

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.

A community of belonging – explore our Diversity Networks

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.

Explore more about our networks here

Our strategy



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.

Download strategy 


Recently we launched a series of work to drive greater ethnic diversity globally, we know there is still much more to do in our firm and our communities. Our commitment is to keep listening whilst taking action, and we encourage our people to continue to challenge us.


In 2019 we developed a plan of work to accelerate progress on ethnic diversity across the firm. This plan took into consideration cultural nuances, is underpinned by data-driven insights and research, and was developed in consultation with our people; their views and experiences, and externally with leading organisations and clients demonstrating best practice. As we work to implement this plan, we remain committed to listening, understanding and acting to create a more inclusive, supportive and diverse culture for all of our people.

In London, we recently updated the diversity data we capture to include a broader sphere of diversity characteristics, including ethnicity. Better data enables us to improve the way we recognise diversity, approach challenges and ensure we support our people.


Our Multiculturalism Networks across the firm lead on some of the action we take to promote awareness, education and connection. For several years, our networks have hosted events with leading speakers and engaged the firm’s clients in these conversations.

Our networks have developed innovative initiatives such as reverse mentoring with our UK Executive, which support a greater focus, awareness and fluency on ethnicity. 

This month we’re kicking off a series of workshops on increasing conversations regarding ethnicity within the workplace.

The intention is to develop confidence around a common language on race, and focus on the practical actions we can all take to ensure behaviours are inclusive and that workplace decisions are free of biases and stereotyping.

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, their outlook and ambitions. The network launched in October 2019, with a focus on providing a forum for sharing views as well as coaching and mentoring.


Diversity and Inclusion at Herbert Smith Freehills is business led and focused. Our Global approach to Diversity and Inclusion is chaired by Alison Brown, Executive Partner for the West and Global Head of Practice for Employment, Pensions and Incentives. The Group is responsible for driving our D&I strategy globally and for holding the firm's management to account.

Ensuring ownership and accountability for change is spread throughout the firm is essential to the success of our Leading for Inclusion strategy. That’s why a large proportion of our partnership have specific objectives related to D&I and why our practice group leaders are responsible for ensuring a diverse talent pipeline and inclusive leadership within their teams.


Across the firm, our practice groups and teams are responsible for providing sponsorship and mentoring for 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.


We are actively working towards overcoming bias in our 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. We also ensure that our recruiters, vacation scheme supervisors and graduate recruitment partners participate in unconscious bias training. Data available from our candidate platform enables us to assess our policies and processes for recruitment and attraction periodically, to understand and address any stages that might disproportionately impact underrepresented groups. The enhancement in data collection mentioned above, will soon enable similar actions to be undertaken in respect of progression and retention. 

We are also focused on maintaining good ethnic minority representation at trainee level. In London through our work on campus and with external partners, including Aspiring Solicitors, we are increasing our engagement with ethnic minority candidates.


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 in the daily casework, including for their young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients. Read more about our Reconciliation Action Plan here.

We are committed to working with the communities in which we operate.


People should feel able to raise concerns – that's why we provide a third-party and entirely anonymous, whistle-blowing service. Our International Standards of Conduct cover our individual and institutional responsibilities to behave with respect and dignity.

Gender targets

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.

In the five years since our first targets the number of women in the partnership has increased by over 50%.

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

download our latest update


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.

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. 




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.

Read more about our strategy here

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.

Read more about our How We Work Guidelines here




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.


Read more about our approach




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