Law firms have shared details of how being mentored by larger practices has helped them make their workplaces more friendly to LGBT solicitors, staff and clients.
Actions taken include sponsoring and broadcasting on Pride Radio, removing unconscious bias from recruitment procedures.
Under a mentoring scheme run by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), Law Society and LGBT rights charity Stonewall launched a year ago, large firms which performed well on the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index provided two hours of free support and guidance to smaller firms every month.
EMG Solicitors, a civil law practice based in Durham, was mentored by Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP).
EMG said it had set up an ‘empowerment, diversity and inclusion’ team, introduced firm-wide questionnaires on equality, diversity and inclusion and redrafted documentation to make it more inclusive.
The firm also sponsored Pride Radio at two Pride events “with staff members contributing to broadcasts” and planned to support local campaigns against homophobia and hate crime.
Horwich Farrelly, a Manchester-based insurance firm, was also mentored by BCLP. The firm created a diversity and inclusion steering group and action plan, and reviewed recruitment procedures to remove unconscious bias.
MSB, a general practice based in Liverpool, was mentored by DWF. MSB adapted its approach to recruitment to attract “diverse applicants”, engaged with community groups such as Liverpool Pride and marched with DWF at Manchester Pride.
Lester Aldridge, a larger firm based in Bournemouth, Southampton and London, was mentored by Baker McKenzie.
The firm identified what it could “realistically achieve”, given that it was “very much in the early stages of raising awareness and implementing change” and improved its communication with employees, “as while the firm saw itself as an inclusive employer, its employees did not see it that clearly”.
Lester Aldridge planned to recruit ‘diversity ambassadors’, a suggestion from Baker McKenzie, get involved with Pride celebrations and develop a three-year equality, diversity and inclusion plan.
Details of the progress of the four law firms with the mentoring scheme were published on the SRA’s website, along with case studies showing how some law firms promoted trans inclusion.
Eversheds Sutherland launched a ‘transitioning at work’ policy last year, with guidelines, FAQs and a template Transition Plan.
To make sure the policy was implemented properly, it established a working group with staff from HR, recruitment, IT and the firm’s LGBT+ employee network.
The firm plans to roll out additional training on the policy and is designing a new HR software system for employees with “more inclusive gender and title options”.
Gowlings WLG also created a transitioning policy, to let people know the firm “is with them every step of the way”, launched an inclusion week and celebrated a Day of Pink with staff, a Trans Day of Visibility and Trans Memorial Day on social media and with signs around their offices.
Gowlings reviewed its recruitment documents, adding ‘Mx’ as an optional prefix when people applied for jobs, and planned to change its internal systems to include ‘non-binary’ as a gender option.
The SRA web page included a comment from Lui Asquith, described as a ‘gender queer solicitor’, who called on law firms to provide trans awareness training for staff and support trans equality charities.
They advised firms to have a “timely, confidential and considered chat” with any employee who came out as trans “to explore what the firm can do to make them feel more comfortable”.
A family law solicitor at transgender support charity Mermaids, they advised firms to ask transgender staff “their preferred pronouns, name, title (they may not want one) and make any change of name simple”.
Law firms should ask which information the individual wanted to remain confidential and how they wanted people to be informed about the information they wanted others to know.
“Make any approach trans employee led – everyone experiences coming out in different ways. Take the lead of the trans person and not what the firm thinks is best.”
They added: “A lot of people show support and solidarity, however unfortunately some still show prejudice and discrimination.
“I would like to see more solicitors and lawyers stand up and count themselves as allies in the legal profession and come out for trans equality, whatever their identity.”