HSF launches global diversity and inclusion initiative

The “10 Actions for Change” initiative aims to bolster representation and support for employees of different races

HSF launches global diversity and inclusion initiative

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has launched its global ‘10 Actions for Change’ diversity and inclusion initiative.

The initiative identifies 10 “action areas” to “improve representation, support and experience” for the firm’s Black, First Nations, Asian and minority ethnic employees, the firm said.

“Like others in the legal industry, we are not where we want to be, or where we should be, in our ethnic representation or our progress in dismantling systemic racism,” CEO Justin D'Agostino said. “The tragic killing of George Floyd in May spurred us to redouble our existing work.”

He said that in recent weeks, HSF has sought feedback on how the firm can “actively become an anti-racist organisation, committed to confronting the deep-seated inequities from which no society or business is exempt.” The 10 Actions for Change provides “a framework for all regions of the firm to shape to suit their local communities and issues.”

The action areas identified in the initiative are as follows:

  • address barriers to the recruitment of Black, First Nations, Asian and minority ethnic people
  • improve retention of Black, First Nations, Asian and minority ethnic colleagues, and improve representation in more senior roles
  • deliver anti-racism workshops in addition to global D&I programmes
  • better inform and track the firm’s approach through robust data collection and analysis, and target-setting where appropriate
  • invest in research and continue listening to the firm’s people (including leavers) and communities
  • engage meaningfully with the firm’s clients on anti-racism
  • increase mentoring and work experience opportunities for young people from Black, First Nations, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds
  • support diversity within the firm’s supply chain and support businesses and social enterprises owned by Black, First Nations, Asian and minority ethnic people
  • increase pro bono support for organisations that address racial inequality
  • hold the regional executives across HSF’s 27 offices accountable for progress on ethnic diversity

“Each action will be backed by a plan and will be interpreted locally and regionally to reflect local challenges, cultures and legal nuances,” HSF said.

The firm’s global head of diversity and inclusion, Danielle Kelly, said that driving more conversations about race to “create a safe, supportive and respectful environment where everyone feels seen and valued” is a priority for HSF.

“While we have some way to go, these actions are backed by initiatives and rigorous data collection to ensure we educate our firm as well as attract, develop and retain talent from Black, First Nations, Asian and minority ethnic people across all groups, teams and roles,” she said.

D'Agostino welcomed the opportunity to lead on the initiative.

“As the firm’s CEO, I am ultimately accountable for our progress—and I am determined that, together, we will make tangible, lasting change,” he said. “I know we can do better, and that we will.”

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