City practice is first law firm to obtain ISO diversity certification

CMS: Certification focuses on continuous improvement

City firm CMS UK has become the first law firm to be awarded the new ISO 30415 diversity and inclusion certification.

Sophie Breuil, its head of diversity and inclusion (D&I), said the standard would help the firm – part of the international CMS network – measure its progress and decide what to focus on.

The standard focuses on HR management and the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, requiring an ongoing commitment to D&I and addressing inequalities in organisational systems, policies, processes and practices both within the organisation and with external stakeholders.

Ms Breuil said: “There are no industry standards to measure the work you’re doing in this area. It can be difficult to see how far you’ve gone and, if you are making progress, whether you are focusing on the right things and what to concentrate on next.”

She said that, after discussions with the senior partner and HR director of CMS UK, it was agreed at the end of 2021 to try and obtain the certification.

During the 12-month certification process, CMS UK’s D&I framework, policies, practices, actions and compliance were reviewed.

Ms Breuil said the standard required CMS to make sure that everyone in the firm was accountable for their actions, not just senior managers.

It covered “every stage of the employee lifecycle”, from attracting new staff to recruitment, promotion, training and engagement with external organisations.

“D&I cuts across everything you do in a law firm, whether it is accessibility or culture – every single thing.”

CMS worked with the ISO’s assessment centre on the certification process and also received a report, which it was reviewing before deciding what changes should be implemented.

“The certification focuses on continuous improvement. Its purpose is to give you an overview of where you are at the moment, so you can see more clearly how you are doing and identify what to do next and where you may be falling behind.”

Ms Breuil said she went to each team in the firm and ask what they were doing in terms of D&I. This included the business development team and the questions it asked clients, the firm’s brand and how it was communicated.

She said another issue was how the firm engaged with the supply chain in terms of D&I, which had been handled “organically rather than strategically”, before the law firm decided what information to ask for and how the supplier’s approach aligned with that of the firm.

“It’s about having a framework. They are so many pointers they give you that really help your thinking and strategy.”

Ms Breuil said certification could apply to “any size” of law firm. “For us the thinking is that we have made some progress, and this can help us shape future D&I and make sure we are on the right track.”

Penelope Warne, senior partner and chair of the CMS UK board, said that developing an inclusive workplace required “an ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

She said ISO certification was “a testament to all the work undertaken by the firm’s leadership”, its diversity and inclusion team, the wider HR function and the firm’s employee networks.

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