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At Herbert Smith Freehills, we don’t expect our people to be or think the same. That’s why fostering an inclusive culture where our people can be themselves, contribute their perspective and perform roles which are meaningful and aligned to our shared values is a core business priority.

Justin D'Agostino
CEO

Our strategy

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Our approach to diversity and inclusion is driven by the principle of ‘Leading for Inclusion’, a strategy which sets out our vision to be the leading global law firm for diversity and inclusion. We recognise the power of diversity and inclusion as a driver of innovation, collaboration and positive 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

Our UK Black Employee Network aims to advocate for, and build community among, Black lawyers and Business Services professionals. The network supports the firm's inclusion strategy by promoting the talents, skills and views of Black colleagues.

The Christian Community provides a place for Christians and those interested in Christianity across the firm to join together, mature in their faith or find out more about the Christian faith. 

In a recent global audit, 18% of our people reported having experienced a disability in the last five years and one in ten considered themselves to have a disability, injury or long-term health condition.

Our Ability Network is focused on building disability confidence throughout the firm, encouraging a better understanding of disability and influencing policies and practices in becoming an employer of choice for those with a disability.

In 2020, we signed up to the Valuable 500 in line with our commitment to championing global disability inclusion within and beyond the firm.

Our Family Networks exists to support all those with caring responsibilities – including parents, guardians, carers and those with other caring needs.

The network organises expert-led seminars covering topics such as body image, eldercare, and parenting skills. They frequently collaborate with other networks to discuss topics such as mental health and LGBT+ families and advocate for more family-inclusive policies and ways of working.

Family Network

When I became a parent I wanted to find out about HSF's approach to supporting working parents. It seemed such a daunting prospect to be a Mum and have a successful career. Thankfully, the Family Network could answer a lot of my questions or at the very least point me in the direction of someone who could. I am now co-chair of the Family Network and I thoroughly enjoy being part of the team providing support to all those at HSF with caring responsibilities, in its widest sense - from parents, grandparents, guardians to those caring for elderly relatives or children. Our aim is to promote awareness and education surrounding some of the common challenges faced by those with caring responsibilities and to provide support and a peer network.

Joanna Elson,
Senior Associate, Finance, London

 

Our Gender Equity Matters Network brings together a number of groups focused on driving greater inclusion and representation at all levels.

Most recently, our Gender Equity Matters Network is Leading for Inclusion by:

 

  • In partnership with our Family Network, hosting a conversation with our new Senior Partner, Rebecca Maslen-Stannage, reflecting on how to balance a successful career with family life.
  • Led by our Women Trainee Lawyers Network, launching an internal podcast for colleagues discussing topics such as tech in the legal profession, culture and identity within the workplace and breaking barriers.

  • In partnership with our Multiculturalism Network, our Women Lawyers Network hosted a recent event that welcomed clients to an evening with booker prize winner Bernardine Evaristo, author of Girl, Woman, Other

Gender Equity Network

I am passionate about making Herbert Smith Freehills a place where everyone can succeed and achieve their goals. Being involved in our Gender Equity Matters Network gives me countless opportunities to learn, participate in thought-provoking conversations and meet people across the firm, all of which support my growth and fulfilment at the firm

Mia Harrison-Kelf,
Senior Associate

The Jewish Network is an open forum for everyone, regardless of faith or background. It's a space to learn about and appreciate the Jewish religion, culture, traditions, and contributions to society. It's a platform to engage in meaningful conversations, share experiences, and foster a sense of belonging. 

Our IRIS Network brings together LGBT+ people and allies from across our business to advocate for LGBT+ inclusion within and beyond the firm. As one of our longest-standing global networks, IRIS works to educate and connect our people, raise awareness, collaborate with other diversity networks and importantly to provide a safe and supported place for colleagues, wherever they are located.

Most recently, the IRIS network is Leading for Inclusion by:

  • re-launching our trans and non-binary guidelines to offer enhanced 1:1 coaching;
  • dedicating pro bono hours to decriminalise homosexuality and deliver LGBT+ rights across the world;
  • and developing sustainable relationships with in-country LGBT+ organisations across the countries in which we operate, such as Open Doors Australia – who support LGBT+ young people dealing with homelessness, mental ill-health and addiction.

We are also signatories to the UN Standards of Conduct for LGBTI Inclusion.

Our Multiculturalism Network is focused on building a culture where we speak openly about race, ethnicity, cultural diversity and religion/faith. Find out more about some of our initiatives below.

Where are you from? - A series of videos celebrating cultural diversity in Asia >

Reflection from a Community - a publication to showcase and celebrate the thoughts, experiences and experiences of the Black community >

10 Actions for Change - a framework to improve representation and the experience of Black, First Nations, Asian and minority ethnic people at the firm >

Muslim Legal Network Iftar Dinner 2023 - our Melbourne office hosted its Iftar Dinner in collaboration with the Muslim Legal Network >

Multiculturalism Network

Asia is home to many different ethnicities, languages and cultures. It is an inherently diverse region. Our Asia Multicultural Network offers a platform for our people from different backgrounds in Asia to connect and share cultural experiences with each other. We are supporters of cultural diversity at work and work to promote cultural inclusiveness in our policies, which we believe makes for a more stimulating and innovative workplace for our people and our clients.

Weina Ye,
International Partner, Disputes

The Muslim Network aims to create a supportive community among Muslim lawyers and business services professionals and raise awareness and understanding of the Muslim faith. The network is open to everyone, including those who are not Muslim but who are interested to learn more or support colleagues and clients. 

Our Australian Veterans' & UK Military Network actively encourage and facilitate the employment of veterans and reservists and support those whose family members are serving. The network works to highlight the skills, experience and diversity of thought that veterans bring to the firm and the wider professional services sector, including leadership, communication, adaptability, teamwork and problem-solving.

Read more about our Australian Veterans' Network

Launched in 2020, our Social Mobility Network exists to improve the experience of those from lower socio-economic backgrounds at the firm, including through promoting visible and diverse role models across the firm and engaging and collaborating with our clients. The network also supports the firm’s outreach and recruitment initiatives such as PRIME.

Listen to Honey Sanusi (Citizenship Manager) talk about the impact of PRIME and read more information here >

Learn more about PRIME

Gender

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Since we first introduced global gender targets in 2014, the proportion of women partners in our firm stands at 33%. That represents an increase of over 116%, bringing us to 175 women partners at May 2024.

We have now reaffirmed our commitment by setting out bold and ambitious new gender targets – by 1 May 2030, our goal is that, globally, women will comprise 40% of partners and partner leadership roles.

And in some parts of our firm, such as Australia, we believe we will reach parity – 50% – by 2030.

We know we need to and can do more. Our progress so far shows we’re on the right track. To support our targets and the progress we’re making on gender diversity, we:

  • Analyse the talent pipeline for partnership including the leadership pipeline;
  • Improve support for partners returning from parental leave;
  • Focus on inclusive leadership behaviours;
  • Ensure junior partners have the right support from their team as well as the broader network;
  • Increase transparency about the appointment and reappointment of leadership roles;
  • and Develop leadership skills for junior partners.

To create greater transparency and consistency about the steps we're taking to achieve gender equity, we have created a global framework that brings together existing and new areas of focus. Our 8 Drivers for Gender Equity will help create focus and accountability in our work to improve gender balance in our partnership and across the business.

8 Drivers for Gender Equity

View our latest gender targets

I am passionate about making Herbert Smith Freehills a place where everyone can succeed and achieve their goals. Being involved in our Gender Equity Matters Network gives me countless opportunities to learn, participate in thought-provoking conversations and meet people across the firm, all of which support my growth and fulfilment at the firm.

Mia Harrison-Kelf
Partner, Corporate

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Ethnicity and cultural background

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Improving ethnic diversity within our firm has been a key focus for a number of years. The tragic killing of George Floyd sparked a deeper conversation within the firm’s leadership and with our people. The conversations focused on how we could work harder to build a supportive, respectful environment where everyone could thrive. What was clear was more needed to be done.

As a result, the firm unveiled 10 Actions for Change – a framework and measure of accountability for every region in our global network to address meaningful change.

We aim to address barriers to recruitment, improve retention and ensure that ours is a firm where there are more conversations about race, ethnicity and cultural diversity within a respectful environment, where everyone feels valued. This is some of the most important work that we do, and we must constantly challenge ourselves to do better in pursuit of our vision to be a leader for inclusion within the legal profession.

Leading for change in indigenous reconciliation

We have long been committed to advancing a culture of partnership and reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia.

London ethnicity targets

In 2020, we introduced the following ethnicity targets within our London office:

  • We will rigorously focus on addressing the disproportionate under-representation of individuals from black backgrounds across practice groups and business services.
  • By 2025, minority ethnic partners will comprise 10% of the London partnership, up from 5.6%.
  • The proportion of minority ethnic trainees retained as NQs will be at least the same as the proportion of minority ethnic trainees in each intake

LGBT+

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As a global firm, we’re proud advocates of LGBT+ inclusion. That’s why we’re consistently awarded Stonewall’s Top Global Employer status, as a leading global employer for LGBT+ diversity and inclusion.

We are working hard to ensure that, wherever our people are located, they feel safe, included and celebrated for who they are. Below are just some of the ways we’re advocating for change across the world:

Working Globally

Open for Business report on the experiences of LGBT+ travellers

Agents for Change

Stonewall global advocacy guide for LGBT+ inclusion

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41% of 18 to 25-year-old LGBT+ employees reported that they went back into the closet when they moved from education into full-time work, despite being out in their personal lives or at university. As a member of the firm's London IRIS Committee, I wanted to see what we could do to make the transition of our new LGBT+ employees into the firm easier.

Scott Warin
Senior Associate & IRIS Network Member

Family and caring

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We want to ensure we’re building an inclusive environment where everyone can thrive. In addition to our Family Network, and approach to agile working, we offer parents and carers access to tools, resources, advice and tips from colleagues to ensure a supportive experience for those taking and returning from parental leave.

As part of this support, we continue to enhance our market-leading parental leave entitlements including:

  • In Asia, our market-leading parental leave policy allows all employees to share primary childcare responsibilities with a partner.
  • In Australia, 26 weeks of paid parental leave for all eligible parents, including additional paid leave for fertility treatment and surrogacy.
  • In the UK, our parental leave policy entitles co-parents up to 24 weeks of leave at full pay to welcome a new child.

Flexibility

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Our careers are long, and our priorities shift and adapt over time. In response, we offer our people the flexibility needed to integrate their work with their life. Our Agile 60 guidelines were developed to give people greater flexibility in their decisions about how, when and where they work – decisions which need to take into account the team, the client and, of course, the individual.

There's no one-size-fits all approach – open team communication and a flexible approach are key.

Disability

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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.

In 2021, we launched a new global commitment to adjustments ensuring that we recognise personalised needs of our people, including applicants, and offer tailored adjustments, whether physical or non-physical.

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

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In 2019, we launched our first global mental health strategy – Thrive, which focuses on culture, prevention and access to support to enable optimal mental health for all of our people.

In 2020, we expanded our global mental health champions programme. Champions play a critical role in raising awareness of mental health, championing wider initiatives across the firm and supporting a culture of inclusion and openness around mental health.

We don't require or ask our Champions to be counsellors – they are everyday people, drawn from all levels and teams, who have an interest in providing a safe and trusting space, supporting colleagues with effective signposting and championing the firm's approach to mental health. They lead by example, proactively looking after mental health and wellbeing and helping teams to spot early unsustainable ways of working.

Check out some of the additional ways we're supporting mental health and wellbeing below.

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.

Check out a range of webinars and resources to support your mental health and wellbeing here.

Watch the full This is Me video series

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.

Listen to Head of Culture & 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.

Resources

Key contacts

Danielle Kelly photo

Danielle Kelly

Director of Culture & Inclusion, Sydney

Danielle Kelly
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欧智乐

行政总裁兼合伙人, Hong Kong

欧智乐