Microsoft offers financial bonus to UK panel firms that meet diversity targets

Initiatives announced as part of ongoing Law Firm Diversity Program

Microsoft offers financial bonus to UK panel firms that meet diversity targets

Microsoft has revealed that it will award a financial bonus to UK panel firms that hit its diversity targets for 2022. The Law Society Gazette reported that firms will be eligible to earn a bonus of up to three per cent on their annual fees for meeting the targets set by the tech giant.

The initiative is part of an ongoing program launched by Microsoft UK in 2020 – the Law Firm Diversity Program – which was created as an offshoot of an existing program that launched in the US in 2008. Following a pilot, Microsoft invited firms that do substantial work for the company in the UK to join the programme. Incentives were allocated for focusing on advancing representation of Black/Black British, Asian/Asian/British or mixed/multiple ethnic group partners in law firm leadership

International firm CMS was Microsoft UK’s LFDP top performer for 2021, according to the Gazette’s report.

CMS met seven out of eight diversity targets, including increasing the number of hours that diverse employees from the firm spent on Microsoft matters by 12 per cent.

CMS and Reed Smith tied for 'most innovative firm'. CMS achieved the target of attracting 35 per cent of applications from ethnically diverse applicants by 2023, with ‘proportionality’ applying to the selection process to ensure the results reflect the entire process. 

Reed Smith was recognized for its Racial Equity Action Plan, which includes increasing the percentage of Black leaders in the firm by 30 per cent by 2024.

“Though the data shows an upward trend in growth of women partners, committee composition and partner composition, it reveals minimal or even negative progress for minority partners, Black/Black British partners, Asian/Asian British partners, mixed multiple partners, as well as both partner and attorney hours,” Patricia Wick Christias, associate general counsel and head of legal at Microsoft, told the Gazette.

Moving forward, Microsoft will increase targets, add a social mobility target, and publicly recognise any UK partner firms that hit all of them.

The Gazette reported that the ‘most innovative firm’ award will be replaced with a survey of UK partner firms on the investments they are making “in infrastructure that promotes a more inclusive environment, such as having dedicated D&I committees, strategic plan, training and development/mentoring for diverse attorneys.”

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