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08 July 2020

Baker McKenzie sets up taskforce to improve racial and ethnic diversity

Group tasked with overseeing allyship and anti-racism training and reviewing recruitment programmes

Miguel Noyola and Anna Brown

Taskforce members Miguel Noyola and Anna Brown

Baker McKenzie has set up a task force to improve racial and ethnic diversity across the firm’s 77 offices.

The Global Race & Ethnicity Task Force will be led by Chicago-based partner Miguel Noyola and include Constanze Ulmer-Eilfort, chair of the firm's global diversity and inclusion committee, and Anna Brown, director of global diversity and inclusion.

Its brief is to help ‘implement and operationalise programmes to advance racial and ethnic diversity’.

It will ‘oversee allyship and anti-racism training; sponsorship of our black colleagues and members of other underrepresented racial and ethnic groups; and a review of our recruitment and client programmes’.

The initiative is the latest of a wave measures being taken by the legal profession in the US and across the world in response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on 25 May.

Ulmer-Eilfort said: "Change starts from within, and we must all embrace the need for change together. We are encouraging everyone to learn, reflect and work to become a more active ally. We need to open our minds and our hearts to the experiences of our black community — there is so much for us to learn, to understand, and to reflect upon before change happens."

Noyola is a member of the firm's North America and global diversity and inclusion committees and advises US companies on their investments in Mexico and other Latin America countries.

Other members of the group include London-based partner Sunny Mann, co-head of the UK compliance and investigations practice, and Tokyo head of dispute resolution Yoshiaki Muto.

Diversity initiatives previously launched by Bakers include the setting in June last year of diversity targets for the firm to achieve a representative split of 40% women, 40% men and 20% flexible (women, men or non-binary persons) for partners, senior business professionals, firm committee leadership and candidate pools for recruitment.

These included a commitment that ‘from July 2020, in offices which do not yet have at least 25% women partners, at least one out of four partner promotions should be a woman'.

Earlier this week, seventeen leading law firms signed up to a UK charter that commits them to measuring their efforts to stamp out institutional racism and encourages them to make the data public.

The initiative follows the establishment in the US of the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance (LFAA), which attracted 125 signatories at launch and pledges to root out and end structural and systemic racism in the law.

A report published by the American Bar Association last month found that the number of black, Asian, Latina and multiracial women partners at US law firms has remained stuck below 3.5% for the past two decades.

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