Diversity and inclusion tops law firm’s new board agenda

Feb 13, 2021

100 Avebury Boulevard.

AS PART of its commitment to diversity and inclusion, UK law firm Shoosmiths – with 13 locations including the landmark 100 Avebury Boulevard building in Milton Keynes – will create new activities to drive progress on this business issue. 

The firm’s diversity and inclusion and learning and development teams are currently collaborating to create a new internal reciprocal mentoring programme. 

Members of the firm’s senior management board will be matched initially with a member of one of Shoosmiths’ employee-led inclusion networks. The reciprocal mentoring programme will upskill employees on how to make a mentoring relationship mutual and will be an opportunity to discuss how the firm can make further progress and embed diversity and inclusion into the workplace.

The first mentoring sessions are due to start in March, running until the autumn.

Reciprocal mentoring aims to turn traditional mentoring on its head to open up a flow of knowledge and sharing of perspectives. In Shoosmiths’ programme, a more junior colleague will take the role of mentor and will be paired with a senior leader as their mentee, but the information flows will be two way.

The firm is also introducing a shadow board, which will mirror the current structure of Shoosmiths’ senior management board. Anyone working at the law firm can apply for a place on the shadow board to review the same business topics that the board regularly meets to discuss. 

The shadow board’s aim is to bring in diverse perspectives from around the firm to create a feedback loop that makes recommendations to the senior management board. The board continues to review diversity and inclusion statistics at their regular meetings, with the analysis discussed at both firm and divisional levels.  

In addition, the firm has increased its focus on unconscious bias – including mandatory e-learning for all employees – to understand the types of bias that exist and how to mitigate their influences within the workplace. 

Simon Boss, chief executive of Shoosmiths

Shoosmiths chief executive Simon Boss said: “One of the key priorities for our senior management board is to ensure that equal opportunities, valuing diversity, and creating an inclusive working environment are integral to how we operate as a firm. 

“We recognise that to thrive as a law firm, we need difference – difference of thought and perspective, difference in perception and approaches to challenges. We are committed to eliminating discrimination and to promoting equality of opportunity for all staff and job applicants. 

“These new initiatives for 2021 in our diversity and inclusion journey show we are committed to creating a working environment and culture that is genuinely inclusive: where every member of staff feels valued for their contribution to the firm and is able to make best use of their skills.”

A key aim of Shoosmiths is to build a diverse and ambitious workforce that reflects all backgrounds and talents.

The firm previously pioneered a CV blind interview policy in its graduate recruitment, part of a wider effort to improve social mobility in the legal profession. It launched a firm-wide Social Mobility Action Plan in October 2020 and won the Law Firm of the Year (Large Firms) category at the UK’s first ever Women in Law Awards last year.  

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