Neurodiversity: Herbert Smith Freehills partner with Autism Forward

November 1, 2019

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Herbert Smith Freehills has partnered with Autism Forward to launch a new programme to recruit autistic individuals.

What does this mean?

Autism Forward is a charity which helps autistic adults reach their full potential in life through specialist mentoring. In partnering with the charity, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has created a programme to recruit autistic individuals and provide ongoing support in their career development.

A data analyst role in the firm’s Legal Operations team and a support role in the Corporate practice have already been filled through the initiative. This follows the recruitment of two autistic individuals in the firm’s Belfast office.

Alison Brown, partner and chair of HSF’s global diversity and inclusion group, said, “fostering a culture of opportunity and inclusivity is core to the way we work and I am delighted that this programme has delivered its first success”.

Jane Pierce, co-founder and trustee of Autism Forward, said, “autistic people have a whole range of strengths and skills but face barriers to employment due to misconception and lack of understanding. So many businesses focus on the search for talent but miss out on swathes of individuals with so much to offer”.

In relation to the programme with HSF, Ms Pierce added, “we are delighted to support Herbert Smith Freehills whose commitment to building, developing, and maintaining a diverse workforce and culture is clear to see”.

What's the big picture effect?

A key part of the new programme will involve providing specific training to enhance awareness about the range of working practices and communication styles within the teams into which the autistic individuals have been recruited.

Herbert Smith Freehills is also working with AS Mentoring, an organisation which provides specialist coaching and support, to identify and support autistic candidates who have the skills appropriate to the roles within the firm.

Linklaters implemented a similar initiative at the start of this year through a partnership with an IT consulting firm which specialises in finding roles for individuals on the autism spectrum.

When examining diversity within law firms, the focus is primarily on ethnic, cultural, socio-economic and gender diversity. However, this new programme highlights the importance of neuro-diversity within large corporations. Figures from the National Autistic Society show that whilst 79% of people with autism express a desire to work, only 16% of autistic adults are in full-time employment.

Ultimately, these initiatives will increase access to employment in the legal sector for autistic adults and help increase diversity in a new and exciting way.

Report written by Erin Stockdale

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