Invite more folks to the party, just don't let them all in

Published: Sep 27, 2007


Yesterday’s post discussed some of the findings of our UK Solicitor Survey, as well as other diversity-related surveys conducted by The Lawyer and Legal Week. Some of the lawyers who took our survey commented on the limited number of lawyers of color at their firms, but seem to take it in relative stride. A litigator in the Birmingham office of Beachcroft LLP says his firm “is welcoming, but as with all firms there is a lack of ethnic minorities beyond a certain level.” Others express more concern. Remarks one experienced lawyer, “Despite the fact we live and work in London I am always surprised at how few ethnic minorities are represented in the city.”

Some respondents attribute “any shortage of diversity” to “application numbers, not lack of receptivity.” The solution to this dearth in applications, suggests a lawyer at Denton Wilde Sapte (which solicitors ranked among the top 10 firms for minorities), is to extend “recruitment to non-traditional academic institutions.” An associate at Clifford Chance (No. 8 on the same ranking) agrees that broader outreach produces results:

Along with the friendliness, I would say this is the other trait that stands Clifford Chance out from the rest. Although it does have a proportion of Oxbridge students, the majority of its trainees are the cream of the crop from universities such as Leeds, Manchester, LSE, Kings, Birmingham, Sheffield, etc, which helps the friendliness of the firm.


In that context, it’s interesting to note that according to The Lawyer’s survey, nearly half (44 percent) of UK lawyers don’t think law firms should reach out to less prestigious universities. At the same time, two-thirds of surveyed lawyers (67 percent) “believe the best way to promote diversity within the industry is to encourage young people who normally would not have considered a legal career to become lawyers.”


So the idea seems to be to cast a wider net, but don’t let anything unfamiliar filter through. At least, even if these newly inspired young people can’t find any firms willing to hire them, they won’t face the crushing debt that overwhelms many law school grads here in the States.


Stay tuned for more on lawyers and diversity.

– posted by vera