Reignite My Fire: Slaughter & May and Eight Others Join a Diversity Hiring Scheme

What’s going on here?

Slaughter and May are among nine new firms who have signed up to a diversity scheme, which allows lawyers who have taken a career-break back to City law firms.

What does this mean?

Nine law firms have recently signed up to the Reignite Academy.  This is an initiative that aims to put lawyers who have taken a career break back into the running for senior legal positions, such as being a partner in a law firm. The Academy was founded by Lisa Unwin, Melinda Wallman and Stephanie Dillon. These women had the desire to create a platform which connected law firms with experienced lawyers, who had taken a hiatus for whatever reason. The platform facilitates both lawyers, who gain smoother access back to the legal profession, and law firms, as they are able to plug their talent gaps with experienced and ambitious lawyers.

The Academy first gained traction in September 2018, when six law firms (including CMS and Orrick) united to offer six-month paid internships to lawyers with a view to permanent employment. This scheme saw 70 applications whittled down to 10, with the placement having started in January of this year. It is worth noting that although all of these positions were filled by women, the programme does not exclude men. However, founder Lisa Unwin recognises that “women’s career paths [especially] rarely travel in straight lines” and they should not be penalised for this. As such, the initiative is in a great position to help such women.

What’s the big picture effect?

This is another example of how diversity can help to strengthen the legal profession. Having only been founded in September 2018, the addition of nine new high-profile law firms, including Slaughter & May, Hogan Lovells, and Herbert Smith Freehills, clearly highlights the potential of such an initiative. The platform matches highly qualified lawyers to senior positions, which can only help to bolster the ranks and reputations of well-renowned firms.

Further to this, the rapid growth of the Academy shows how important diversity is becoming to City law firms. There is increasing recognition that the ideal lawyer is not of a certain age or gender. Kathleen Russ (Travis Smith’s senior partner elect) explains that “there are talented people from all walks of life and from different age groups. A talented lawyer does not lose their talent… merely because they chose to take a career break”.

It is hoped that this initiative, and others like it, will continue to promote hiring policies that focus on recruiting the best person for the job, no matter what their age, gender or race.  

Report written by Connor B.

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