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22 October 2020

Linklaters sets out race action plan to increase black diversity across firm

Magic Circle UK Firm pledges to increase number of black partners globally five fold by 2027

By Ben Rigby

pic of Linklaters' Frankfurt office

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Linklaters has set out a new race action plan as it attempts to increase black racial diversity at the magic circle firm in response to a growing global anti-racism movement triggered by the killing of George Floyd in the US.

The firm says it plans to establish a black diversity council to hold the organisation to account for progress and train all staff members on anti-racism over the next 12 months, with regular refreshers thereafter. It will also hold all partners and directors accountable for racial diversity in their practices and teams.

To that end, from the next recruitment cycle the firm has set a target to ensure 35% of its trainees every year are from minority ethnic backgrounds in the UK, with at least 10% of them being black. In the US, it is pledging to ensure half of its first years are minority ethnic, with at least 10% of them also being black. 

In addition, the firm says it plans to strengthen partnership diversity, with a target of 15% black and underrepresented minority ethnic partners in the UK and the US by 2025. It also wants five times as many black partners globally by 2027. 

Charlie Jacobs, senior partner and senior champion for race and ethnicity at Linklaters, said: “As a firm, we pride ourselves on our values of respect, integrity and inclusion and we are calling on those values to stand against racism and champion equality. We must do better as a firm, industry and society to ensure greater representation of black and minority ethnic groups at all levels of business.”

Other elements of the firm’s race action plan include a pledge to establish a new mentorship programme for black employees and to establish a diversity scholarship to provide financial support to black and minority ethnic law students in the US. 

Linklaters also aims to double its annual pro bono hours working on racial equality and empowerment causes, expand its relationships with racial justice organisations and review its supply chain to ensure the firm increases its spend with black and minority owned suppliers.

Tom Shropshire, partner and global head of the firm’s US practice and co-sponsor of Linklaters’ UK BAME network, said: “We are committed to being leaders for positive change, including across the global legal industry and within the communities where we live and serve. We see there is structural change needed, and we have an important role to play and must be agents for that change.” Earlier this month, flexible legal resourcing giant Axiom promised to improve black lawyer representation as part of its diversity drive while in July Clifford Chance set gender, ethnicity and LGBT+ targets to improve the diversity of its workforce.

Meanwhile, in February the Move the Needle Fund - a $5m project to explore new ways of improving diversity - secured its fifth and final law firm investor, Nixon Peabody.

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