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Landmark report addressing Black representation at the partnership level launches endorsed by David Lammy MP, The Law Society, Black Solicitors Network & Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Herbert Smith Freehills is supporting the launch of ‘The 1% Study’, together with DLA Piper, Hogan Lovells Latham & Watkins and Linklaters.

An extense research investigation, it addresses the under-representation of Black solicitors at the partnership level in major UK law firms, setting out actionable learnings.

It has been found that approximately 90, or just 1% of partners at major UK law firms (firms with 10+ partners) identify as Black (Solicitors Regulation Authority, 2022). There are nearly five times more Asian partners than Black partners, and 90% of the 13,403 partners at major law firms in the UK identify as White.

‘The 1% Study’ uncovers the experiences of Black partners in the UK and outlines five key actions law firms can take to better retain and progress Black talent to senior levels. The official patron is The Rt Hon. David Lammy MP and the report is endorsed by the Law Society of England and Wales, the Black Solicitors Network, and the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

David Lammy MP says: ‘The 1% Study’ provides an action-focused, evidence-based guide for law firms on how to better attract, retain, develop, and progress Black talent to senior levels. The report disaggregates ‘BAME’ to identify the patterns and trends that affect the progression of Black solicitors within private practice. This vital study amplifies the voices and collective experiences of Black talent who have defied the odds to achieve partnership. The learnings shared and advice points in the report will also shape the future by helping to guide junior Black solicitors along their career journey, as well as Black students aspiring to enter the legal profession.””

Samantha Brown, partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, adds: "We recognise the need to redress imbalances that have persisted for so long. We launched our own 10 Actions for Change more than two years ago with the aim of addressing barriers to recruitment and improving retention. We have made progress, but we are still not where we want to be. It is important that we continue to develop partnerships and collaborate with other firms in the industry to help ensure talented individuals gain greater access to the profession."

The research was conducted by extense, the legal sector specialist inclusion consultancy, D&I training provider and diverse headhunting solution. The 21-month-long study interviewed Black partners at major UK law firms to discover the key contributing factors that assisted them to reach the partnership level.

In keeping with the UK’s theme for Black History Month 2022, “Time for Change: Action Not Words”, the report identifies five key actions that law firms are not all currently taking, and which would encourage greater Black representation at the partnership level:

  • tying executive compensation to diversity and inclusion outcomes
  • providing supervisor-focused training, to improve inclusive line-management capability and confidence
  • interrupting work allocation bias, through a combination of algorithmic technology and people solutions
  • instigating formal sponsorship programmes, targeting underrepresented talent, and
  • deploying targeted equitable support and career development opportunities.

extense’s Julian Richard says: "Listening to and analysing the experiences of ‘The 1%’ has enabled us to find effective solutions to a systemic problem that has been concealed. Previous research on ethnic minority group career progression in the UK legal profession has been limited by the categorisation of ‘BAME’. This reductionist grouping has masked disparities in progress for different ethnic groups. Black representation has remained relatively stagnant for several years and worryingly low at the partnership level. Our actions lay a path for accelerating the retention and progression of Black talent to senior levels. We encourage firms to be bold with this necessary step change.”

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