responsible business

Championing diversity and inclusion

Our aim is to be a diverse and inclusive workplace where everyone has the opportunity to achieve their potential.

This is vital if we want to attract and retain top talent. We want to create a welcoming, positive and supportive environment in which all can flourish, regardless of their gender, race or ethnicity, background, religion, disabilities, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other dimensions of difference.

We also look beyond our firm through our involvement with external organisations and our collaborations with clients. We believe it is important to work with others to create sustainable change in our profession, the business world and our wider communities.

We are making progress but there is more to do. We have a clear set of priorities that include a focus on everyday actions and inclusive leadership, our diverse talent pipeline, and changing the dialogue and increasing engagement. These priorities ensure we are focused on building a more diverse workplace and greater inclusion for all.

We want to ensure our firm is gender diverse at all levels, but particularly within the partnership. To achieve this aim we use a range of measures, including setting targets for partner promotions and initiatives such as our global sponsorship programme for women. We know it is vital to create a working environment that is equally welcoming to all, whatever your gender identity. We also understand the benefits of bringing together people with shared interests and common goals, and our women’s networks are an integral part of this.

Outside our firm, we take an active role globally in the 30% Club – a group of business leaders committed to achieving better gender balance at all levels of commerce.

Race and ethnicity
As a global organisation we want to broaden the firm’s representation among different races and ethnicities, particularly at senior levels.

Our efforts in this area include our global Black Affinity Network, which brings together lawyers of black African and black African Caribbean heritage from across the firm.

Externally, a number of our lawyers have been chosen by the Council of Urban Professionals to join a 10-month leadership training course.

And we celebrate Black History Month in both the US and the UK, hosting talks and other events with a number of our clients.

Social mobility
We want to ensure access to careers in our firm and the legal profession in general is not restricted by a person’s social, educational or financial background. We aim to find ways to identify exceptional talent beyond traditional methods that view academic achievement as a prime indicator of potential.

We run a number of programmes to address this. These include the Freshfields Stephen Lawrence Scholarship Scheme, our Legal Outreach programme in the US and a professional skills workshop programme with ITE College East in Singapore. We also aim to provide opportunities for young school students from underprivileged backgrounds by supporting their aspirations to enter university. 

Sexual orientation and gender identity (LGBT+)
In 2014 we became the first leading global law firm to enter the Stonewall Top 100 Employers for LGBT+ people in Britain. For four years we featured in the UK Top 25, and have been named a Top Global Employer for three consecutive years. We are also a founding member of Stonewall’s Global Diversity Champions programme.

In 2017 we were awarded a gold medal by the wwP (work with Pride) PRIDE Index for our workplace inclusion efforts in Japan alongside being named a bronze standard organisation in the biannual Hong Kong LGBT+ Workplace Inclusion Index organised by Community Business where we also shared similar success in 2015.

We have a thriving global network, Halo, for our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) staff, while our Champions network enables staff who do not identify as LGBT+ to actively support their colleagues.

In recognition of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia on 17 May 2018, we were proud to express our support for the UN LGBTI Standards of Conduct for Business. We believe these standards are reflected in the firm’s existing commitment to being a responsible business, including much of the firm’s pro bono work alongside the endeavours of Halo and Halo Champions.

2019 UK diversity statistics
In recognition of the under-representation of women on international tribunals, in 2015, members of the arbitration community (including Sylvia Noury, Partner in dispute resolution) drew up a pledge to take action. The Pledge seeks to increase, on an equal opportunity basis, the number of women appointed as arbitrators in order to achieve a fair representation as soon practically possible, with the ultimate goal of full parity.
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