Firms including DLA Piper, Linklaters back study into lack of black partners in the UK

'The 1% Study’ outlines steps law firms should take to boost number of senior black lawyers
London, United Kingdom, 23rd June 2018:- David Lammy MP, Labour Party speaks at The March for a People's Vote in Central London demanding a vote on the final deal on Britain's exit from the EU

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Five of the world’s biggest law firms have contributed to a new study looking into the underrepresentation of black lawyers holding senior positions in the UK.

DLA Piper, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Latham & Watkins and Linklaters supported ‘The 1% Study’, which examines why there is a lack of black partners in UK law firms and outlines steps to improve representation at partnership level. 

There are currently only around 90 black partners in total at UK firms with more than 10 partners – equivalent to 1% of all partners at major UK firms. By contrast, there are almost five times more Asian partners than black partners, while white partners make up 90% of all partners.

David Lammy MP, who also supported the report, said: “The 1% Study provides an action-focused, evidence-based guide for law firms on how to better attract, retain, develop and progress black talent to senior levels. The report disaggregates ‘BAME’ to identify the patterns and trends that affect the progression of black solicitors within private practice.”

The research – which was carried out by specialist inclusion consultancy extense over a time-frame of almost two years – identified five steps law firms should take to boost black representation at partner level. Those are linking executive compensation to diversity and inclusion; providing supervisor-focused training to improve inclusive line management; fixing work allocation bias; introducing formal sponsorship programmes that target underrepresented talent and offering targeted equitable support and career development opportunities.

Read the list of more than 300 nominees for the Global Legal Post's inaugural Women and Diversity in Law Awards. The deadline for entries is Friday 11 November

Julian Richard, managing director at extense, said: “Listening to and analysing the experiences of ‘The 1%’ has enabled us to find effective solutions to a systemic problem that has been concealed. Previous research on ethnic minority group career progression in the UK legal profession has been limited by the categorisation of ‘BAME’. This reductionist grouping has masked disparities in progress for different ethnic groups.”

The Law Society, Black Solicitors Network and the Solicitors Regulation Authority also endorsed the report.

Last month, the Law Society of England and Wales released a workplace diversity and inclusion roadmap to help law firms take a strategic approach to improving equality.

Also in September, US firm Adams and Reese launched a multidisciplinary practice dedicated to advising historically black colleges and universities on issues such as government relations and federal funding. 

Read these reflections by Women and Diversity in Law Awards judges on their careers and how to promote DE&I:

‘Take every opportunity as if this is your breakthrough moment’: a barrister’s journey from Tower Hamlets via the Magic Circle

'I was trying to over-compensate for being different': Baker McKenzie's global marketing director on the importance of inclusion

‘Tiny changes can have a massive butterfly effect’: Clifford Chance's UK inclusion head on her D&I story

‘Everyone’s been excluded': Accenture Legal's global diversity head on the power of empath

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