Down to Diversify: Leigh Day introduces scheme which searches for black lawyers

October 4, 2019

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Law firm Leigh Day intend to recruit six black students without higher education to begin their five-year programme.

What does this mean?

Leigh Day, specialists in personal injury and human rights law, have introduced a new scheme in order to increase their proportion of black employees. Whilst a university degree is not required, Leigh Day does request potential employees to have completed their A-Levels in London to a good standard; training is expected to begin in 2020.

When questioned about this new recruitment campaign, managing partner Frances Swaine explained her motivation was the “low numbers of black lawyers” her firm has hired “compared with other ethnic groups over recent years”. Indeed, statistics support this statement with only 5% of Leigh Day’s employees being black; the rest of the country appear to have a similar situation as statistics released by the Solicitors Regulation Authority reveal only 3% of lawyers are black in both England and Wales.

What's the big picture effect?

It is believed that selecting students from an Afro Caribbean and African background will encourage others of the same ethnicity to apply, diversifying the law firm’s workforce. Statistics have shown that while the number of Asian lawyers across the country has risen by 5%, figures have remained mainly static for blacks, with only a 1% increase. Given the lack of progress made, schemes like the one Leigh Day has introduced may be something for other law firms to consider.

Diverse workforces do not solely reflect well on the firm, they also have economical advantages. Diversity in the workplace has been noted to bring different perspectives and viewpoints that help firms provide the best service for their clients. Slaughter and May’s head of inclusion, Uzma Hamid-Dizer, echoed this sentiment claiming diversity is “a business imperative”. It is clear that many law firms agree as shown by the steps they have taken to increase diversity in the workplace. Aspiring Solicitors has been working with several firms, including White and Case, to increase minority lawyers. Meanwhile, other firms, like Slaughter and May, have been working with PRIME to help make internships accessible to those from a disadvantaged background

However, whilst the benefits of a diverse workforce is clear, law firms do need to question whether a scheme that allows students to instantly be given a training contract is the best way to tackle the employment disparity. Since Leigh Day’s announcement on twitter, many online have accused the campaign of taking positive discrimination too far

Ultimately, a delicate balance needs to be struck; it is essential that schemes should be adopted in order to solve the lack of diversity in law firms, which is mutually beneficial to those from disadvantaged backgrounds and to the firm itself, but firms need to be careful that they do not arbitrarily exclude other applicants.

Report written by Hanna Tesfazghi

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