Six London law firms back creation of new black British civil rights organisation

Magic Circle firms Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields and Slaughters among the six

Six London-based law firms including Allen & Overy and Slaughter and May are backing the launch of a new black British civil rights group, the Black Equity Organisation (BEO).

A&O and Slaughters are joined by Ashurst, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) in supporting the project by providing seed funding and legal advice on a pro bono basis. Backers from other industries include Sky and WPP. The BEO was founded by influential black figures in the world of business, law, the arts and social justice, including Birnberg Peirce Solicitors managing partner Marcia Willis Stewart QC, Labour MP David Lammy and filmmaker David Olusoga. 

Dame Vivian Hunt, the BEO’s chair of trustees, said: “Our partner law firms were among the first organisations to join us in our journey. By devoting their time, expertise and passion they have played a vital role in the establishment of the Black Equity Organisation.”

The BEO aims to promote economic, political and social equity for black communities in the UK to ensure equal opportunity for progress and prosperity.

Chinwe Odimba-Chapman, a member of Clifford Chance’s executive leadership group, said: “The BEO vision and plan to advance equity for black communities in the UK is as necessary and urgent as it is compelling. Commercial law firms have the ability and resource to help highlight under resourced and underrepresented social matters, and we are glad to be able to be part of supporting such a pioneering organisation that will directly work towards tackling processes that encourage, perpetuate or permit systemic racial injustice.”

The organisation has six key mandates that it is seeking to address: economic empowerment and equity of opportunity; education; justice, immigration and rights; culture, awareness and respect; health, wellness and care; and housing and community.

Alison Brown, executive partner at HSF, said: “The only way to remove systemic racism is to challenge it by holding organisations and individuals to account and engaging in meaningful ways to knock down the barriers that block economic and social mobility. Launching our own 10 Actions for Change was one step on our journey towards racial equity and we are proud that, by helping launch the BEO, we are also part of the wider legal industry’s sustained effort to tackle discrimination.”

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