‘Aspiring for an inclusive culture is a permanent campaign’

IBA’s diversity and inclusion toolkit welcomed as ‘terrific resource’ for committed law firm leaders

Nina Goswami

This week’s launch of the IBA’s diversity and inclusion (D&I) toolkit has been welcomed by experts and campaigners, although they advise that devising and implementing an internal policy is just the starting point for law firms.

The free toolkit sets out the steps firms should take to build a D&I action plan and comes with templates for the setting out of a plan and the monitoring of progress. It is also equipped with guidance on how firms can review and improve existing polices.

Nina Goswami, Clifford Chance’s UK head of inclusion, praised the initiative’s flexibility, adaptability and ability to drive incremental change.

“As we acknowledge at Clifford Chance, aspiring for an inclusive culture within a workplace is a permanent campaign – our values change, as society and our firm changes,” she said. “It is why both change theory and measuring impact are at the heart of our inclusion strategy, which is built on actions that recognise inclusion is more than a nice to have – it’s a business imperative.” 

Leading partnership and employment lawyer Clare Murray, founder and managing partner of London firm CM Murray, described the toolkit as a “terrific and welcome initiative for law firms around the world, whatever their size or location and wherever they are on their D&I journey”.

She praised it for its “great guiding principles and helpful templates, which allow each firm to create their bespoke D&I plan which they can tailor to local law and to their firm’s own strategic business needs”.

The toolkit, she added, also encourages data-led planning and review of effectiveness, with helpful suggestions for firms on “ways of encouraging and opening up their candidate pool to underrepresented groups”.

Murray said future iterations of the project could include follow-up guidance on how to embed a D&I plans into employee, client and vendor communications, and to further tailor staff benefits to any firm’s strategic diversity objectives.

While it was “a very helpful resource” to check against existing strategy and nudge further developments, Murray said firms should not treat the toolkit as “a box-ticking exercise… delegated to HR or D&I teams” or part of a six-monthly update to senior management with “a few words of support from the managing partner”. 

Law firms should, she said, ensure the plan was “on the agenda of every executive committee meeting, is considered as an aspect of every strategic decision [firms] take, and is a key metric in the assessment of executive committee and partner contribution, profit allocation and promotion”.

“Once it is fully embraced and lived at the top of a law firm, D&I should cascade more easily throughout the organisation to become an immersive experience for everyone,” she concluded. 

MD Communications founder and CEO Melissa Davis, who sits on the IBA global mental wellbeing taskforce, agreed, saying: “Diversity and inclusion shouldn’t just be a fundamental principle within the law, but also a central tenet to those who practise it.”

To implement the toolkit, she said, law firms needed “a top-down approach from law firm leaders, both through how they behave and implement their strategies, and also through who actually sits in the leadership positions”.

Nina Goswami and Clare Murray are on the judging panel for the Women and Diversity in Law Awards, which are hosted by The Global Legal Post. MD Communications was named 2023 Supplier of the Year.

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