11 May 2021

Nokia to assess panel firms with diversity and inclusion initiative

The Finnish telecoms multinational will score firms including Bird & Bird and Eversheds Sutherland quarterly and annually

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Nokia’s legal team has launched an equity, inclusion and diversity (E,I&D) scorecard system to assess its six panel law firms.  

As part of the initiative, Nokia will score its panel firms quarterly and annually in order to determine whether they have taken steps to implement effective E, I&D strategies. 

The scorecard system was presented to firms in March, with Eversheds Sutherland, Roschier, Bird & Bird, Quinn Emanuel, McKool Smith and Alston & Bird set to become the first group to take part, the company said in a statement on Tuesday. 

The criteria used to assess firms will cover recruitment policies — including the Mansfield Rulewhich sets diversity targets for appointments — as well as pay equality, availability of mentoring and pro bono initiatives, the percentage of billable work carried out by employees from diverse backgrounds, engagement with diversity and inclusion organisations and the presence of a dedicated E, I&D team. 

Nokia’s chief legal officer, Nassib Abou-Khalil, said the “agile” initiative mirrors Nokia’s wider diversity and inclusion ethos, which has become a “top priority” for the company in recent years. 

“We have an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to equity, inclusion and diversity and work towards progress with the law firms we choose to work with,” he said. 

“While many companies have taken a similar approach before, we feel that our approach is unique in focusing on collaboration partnership and support across the industry to influence positive change and progress in the legal profession.” 

The assessed panel firms will receive regular updates from the telecommunication giant’s internal legal and compliance team. 

As part of the quarterly score, Nokia’s legal team and its E, I&D committee will provide its panel firms with mentorship and share challenges and best practice in the hope of further refining each firm’s own E, I&D initiative to “maximise engagement and accelerate progress”.

Last month, fellow telecoms player Vodafone unveiled its refreshed global legal advice panel, selecting firms based on a shared commitment to promoting diversity targets and environmental, social and governance (ESG) best practice. 

The UK tech giant’s panel shake-up, conducted under the stewardship of general counsel and company secretary Rosemary Martin, reflected its renewed focus on diversity credentials and inclusion initiatives as the ESG movement continues to gain momentum across different sectors. 

In January, Coca-Cola unveiled a series of diversity targets for its US advisers with the threat that their ability to meet them will be a significant factor in determining whether they make its first-ever preferred panel of law firms in 18 months’ time.  Firms who fail to meet the targets will be levied a non-refundable 30% reduction in their fees until they achieve compliance.

The sanctions proposed by the beverages giant were notably harsher than those put forward by Swiss pharma giant Novartis early last year, which said the company would withhold 15% of fees if its targets were not met. 

However, the status of Coca-Cola’s programme has come under question after its GC, Bradley Gayton, stepped down to become a consultant last month and his replacement, Monica Howard Douglas, reportedly telling the legal team it had been paused. 

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