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Herbert Smith Freehills has become one of the first law firms to take proactive steps to ensure Black and ethnic minority job seekers have the same opportunities to compete for roles as similarly qualified White counterparts.

The firm has united with thirty-four recruitment agencies across the UK to launch the Recruitment Agency Race Fairness Commitment. It will ensure that Black and ethnic minority candidates are just as likely to be contacted about, apply for, interview for and be offered career opportunities.

Developed by diversity recruitment specialist Rare, the Commitment recognises that external agencies have an important role to play alongside internal recruitment and HR teams in ensuring equal access opportunities for all candidates. The Commitment is focused on maximising opportunities for both experienced and senior candidates as well as those at entry level to ensure a simultaneous top-down and bottom-up effect on diversity in organisations.

Commenting on the partnership, Mary Carpenter, senior recruitment manager (UK) at Herbert Smith Freehills, says: "Whilst we, like many other firms in the sector, still have a journey to travel, some steps have been taken. Our recently launched 10 Actions for Change is a pivotal element of our work to deliver meaningful change focusing on recruitment, retention, increasing mentoring and offering work experience opportunities. We want to create an environment in which people of all ethnic backgrounds can succeed in the legal sector and our determination to work with other firms and recruiters in the sector through the Race Fairness Commitment is steadfast."

Signatories commit to a range of measures, including:

  • ensuring that their candidate pools at least match the UK ethnic diversity and aspire to the local population if greater;
  • taking the time to explore contextual backgrounds and experiences of Black and ethnic minority candidates to better represent diverse candidates to organisations;
  • demanding hard, factual feedback on any ethnic minority candidates not hired. “Didn’t fit” and “something is not quite right” are not acceptable reasons for not hiring and are often code for bias.

Other law firms who are signatories to the Commitment include Ashurst, Clifford Chance, Slaughter and May and Travers Smith.

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