Diversity & Inclusion
At Lewis Silkin we recognise that a more inclusive workplace allows for a plethora of ideas and thoughts, a variety of points of view that can trigger discussions or deliver innovative results as well as a wide scope of versatile skills and expertise.
We are proud of the diverse range of people within Lewis Silkin and culture of bravery and kindness that allows individuals to be themselves at work, ensuring we provide the best possible service to our clients.
We are inspired by our own history – a story of social mobility of Lewis Silkin (the man) who was born to a poor family of refugees, but whose determination and hard work won him a scholarship to Oxford University. The opportunity was subsequently lost when, due to his social status, his headmaster reputedly advised the University “this boy will not benefit from a university education”. Undeterred, Lewis Silkin worked in the London Docks until he spotted a notice in the window of a firm of solicitors seeking a ‘bright lad’. He was appointed as a clerk, eventually becoming an articled clerk and qualifying as a solicitor (going on to represent Deptford in the House of Commons and sit in the House of Lords).
This history is at the core of our culture and our values and it drives our commitment to ensure that access to the legal profession is open and fair and that the profession itself is diverse and socially inclusive.
We are a proud signatory to The Law Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Charter, the leading diversity initiative of the legal profession, and Gold Standard award recipient. We are also a legal partner to The Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion.
We have been accredited as a Living Wage Employer since 2012 and we extend this to our outsourced services, ensuring that our cleaners, security and maintenance colleagues are paid the real living wage in our contracts with providers.
Our Diversity and Inclusion Board
The Diversity and Inclusion Board, chaired by Jo Evans one of our partners, champions the firm’s culture and is responsible for development and execution of the firm’s overall diversity strategy. Lucy Lewis, a key member of the D&I Board is the firm’s Values Partner and sits on our Strategy Board, responsible not just for delivery of our D&I objectives but also the challenging CSR objectives. The key strategic aims of the Diversity and Inclusion Board are:
- To create and maintain a workplace where employees can thrive regardless of their personal characteristics;
- To promote visibility and representation across the diversity strands (Gender, BAME, Social Mobility, LGBT+, Disability and Wellbeing, and Interfaith);
- To act as an advisory body for the firm on diversity issues, including drafting guidance and making recommendations to the Operations Board and the Strategy Board of the firm; and
- To develop and maintain recruitment processes that encourage and maintain a diverse workforce.
- We have signed the Law Society’s Women in Law Pledge and Lucy Lewis sits on the Law Society’s Women Lawyers Division committee.
- As part of our 2020 ‘Awareness to Action’ campaign we have implemented actions to show the proactive steps we as a firm will take to move towards gender balance and creating a more equal profession for all. Some of the actions are set out below.
- We have launched our Women in Law Pledge targets including no less than 45% female partners by 2027, gender balance in leadership and other fee earning roles and reducing our gender pay gap by no less than 40% from its 2019 levels by 2027.
- We have made changes to partner appraisals which include assessment against how each partner has promoted the firm’s culture and values, steps they have taken to advance D&I and the setting of a diversity related objective for the coming year.
- We have relaunched our LS menopause initiative to support women both within the firm and in the advice offered to clients, allowing people to share experiences and feel comfortable in asking for support.
- We have made a commitment to no all-male pitch teams or panels at events and to challenging the make-up of panels at external events our staff are invited to speak at.
- We have removed ‘Dear Sirs’ from all our templates and have introduced a set of gender-inclusive salutations.
- We have implemented maternity coaching, with meetings for managers and expectant and returning mothers.
- Our Strategy Board has committed to review our shared parental leave and paternity leave policies to consider how we might achieve greater parity with maternity leave and has looked into introducing a more formal career advancement/ pathway to partnership programme for women.
- In early 2020 we launched our ‘Women who shaped LS’ campaign, celebrating the achievements of the women (past and present) who have made significant contributions to the firm which Lewis Silkin has been, is and will become. We sponsored one of the First 100 Years | Celebrating Women in Law campaign videos in 2019 and partnered with Sainsbury’s, holding an event to support the campaign.
- In September 2020, we will be launching our Solicitor Apprenticeship Scheme. This is part of our commitment to widen access to the legal profession by supporting alternative routes to qualification. It is a significant commitment for us and means that over a two-year period a minimum of 15% of our training lawyers will be apprentices.
- 50% of applicants for our Solicitor Apprenticeship positions were BAME, and this number has stayed consistent throughout the recruitment process, which will conclude in July 2020. Our BAME and Social Mobility groups reviewed the assessment questions and mark schemes at each stage to ensure they did not pose any barriers to applicants from those backgrounds. We also featured profiles of BAME colleagues on our recruitment page to help attract candidates.
- On Windrush Day, two Lewis Silkin partners hosted a firmwide event: ‘An Open Conversation on Race and Racism’. This was a broad discussion with contributions from both partners and six other colleagues who each spoke very movingly of their experiences of racism.
- Members of our BAME group are currently working with our Learning and Development Manager to develop Ally Training which is due to be launched in August 2020. This will be compulsory, and all staff members must complete it before they are eligible to be considered for a promotion or pay rise.
- Ally training is in addition to our existing online Unconscious Bias training course for senior leaders, sessions on Appropriate Language for all staff, and online diversity training for all new staff. These training modules will also be updated to be more explicit on race issues and language.
- We have established a ‘reverse mentoring’ scheme for senior colleagues looking to increase their understanding of race issues. Our first mentoring pair met for the first time in June 2020 and we are looking to expand this to more pairings.
- We are currently analysing the proportion of BAME candidates applying for training contracts and the proportion that progress through the recruitment process and are discussing lack of BAME candidates directly with recruitment agencies.
- We use contextual recruitment and the Rare Vantage Tool for training contract and apprenticeship roles, and to source candidates for our annual Spring Workshop. This enables us to enter precise search criteria and to pinpoint specific candidates or candidate groups. We can “search” for candidates using a number of different filters including, but not limited to, ethnicity, gender, disadvantaged postcode and time spent in care.
- We are looking to set BAME recruitment targets for 2022 and 2025. We are looking closely at progression within the firm for BAME staff and will be publishing data on our ethnic pay distribution reporting later this year.
- We are considering the impact of Covid-19 and Lockdown on BAME staff in light of the disproportionate impact the virus has them. We are factoring this into our risk assessments for our return to the office.
- In September we will be launching our ‘One for One’ scheme to provide quality work experience to candidates from a socioeconomically disadvantaged and/or BAME backgrounds who may otherwise struggle to gain experience in law. We have longstanding relationships with several local schools and are working closely with them to source these candidates.
- All stages of the recruitment process for our Solicitor Apprenticeship scheme are strength-based, rather than experience-based, recognising that candidates from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are less able to access work experience in our sector. Candidates can draw from all areas of life to answer the questions, e.g. through family, caring or community responsibilities. Applicants also received detailed application guidance at each stage so they know what to expect and have an equal chance to prepare and score well.
- We are developing a comprehensive training programme of soft skills for when our apprentices join us in September and will be supporting them with a broad network of supervisors, mentors and buddies to support their transition into work and ensure they are able to achieve their full potential.
- As part of our PRIME commitment we offer work experience placements for students from less privileged backgrounds who might otherwise not have the opportunity to access careers in the legal world. We consistently exceed the requirement to provide 50% of the number of Training Contract places we have in equivalent work experience places and have run between four and six placements a year since making the commitment. Lucy Lewis, mentioned above, also sits on the board of PRIME.
- We use the Rare Contextual Recruitment System for our graduate roles, which uses big data to help us identify candidates with the greatest potential. The system compares the economic and social circumstances of applicants to produce contextual data on every candidate, allowing us to spot exciting talent we might otherwise have missed, and ensure we build an even richer and more diverse staff population.
- We recognise that Covid-19 has made it much more difficult for young people to access work experience and career opportunities. In July 2020 we are delivering a virtual careers day to students from Ark Globe Academy in Southwark. Lewis Silkin staff will be running a series of talks on routes into law, why they wanted to become lawyers and what a ‘typical day’ looks like for them. We have also engaged a client to speak to give their perspective on in-house roles.
- We will be rolling out the virtual careers day model to other schools in social mobility ‘cold spots’ across the UK, focusing on schools near Oxford and Cardiff due to our office presence and community links to those areas.
- We will also be delivering virtual sessions to students in years 9-11 as part of the PRIME Cold Spots Project this summer, which will enable us to reach out to even more students across the UK.
- In April 2020 we began a year-long charity partnership with XLP, a social mobility charity working across London to support and improve outcomes for young people from underprivileged backgrounds. Our partnership includes fundraising, pro bono support and volunteering.
- We have completed the 2020 submission process for the Social Mobility Foundation’s Social Mobility Employer Index and are committed to implementing recommendations to improve.
- Lewis Silkin is a founder member of the inter-law LGBT network group, LeGalBesT and regularly takes part and hosts group events.
- We are committed to ensuring LS is a welcoming and inclusive space for all parts of the LGBT+ communities, and mark events such as Bi Visibility Day and Trans Day of Remembrance in addition to our annual Pride event.
- We encourage all staff to include their personal pronouns in their email signatures. Including pronouns in email signatures helps to normalise the practice of sharing pronouns and is a great way to be an ally to the trans and non-binary communities. We also hope that this will help us to avoid assumptions about colleagues’ and others’ gender identities.
- We are spearheading a firm-wide review of all precedent documents and policies to ensure they are gender inclusive.
- We work regularly with and are recommended by Mermaids on discrimination issues.
- We work to ensure that our recruitment and application processes and our office spaces are welcoming to and inclusive of the LGBT+ communities.
- We are implementing an internal Transitioning in the Workplace policy.
- Last year we celebrated Pride with a film club and social which focused on re-igniting our sense of community, something truly needed after the year and a half we’d all had. It was a brilliant opportunity to celebrate with our colleagues and we look forward to hosting more events to mark other significant dates in 2022.
Disability and Wellbeing
- We are certified as Disability Confident. As part of our commitment we work with Mencap to provide two annual work experience placements within our Facilities team.
- We are reviewing the findings of the Legally Disabled report, which focused on career experiences of disabled people within the legal profession, and the recommendations for short and long-term changes.
- In 2019 we launched #ThisPlaceMinds, focusing on mental wellbeing for our staff and our clients, to help foster workplaces that build a culture where people can talk openly, knowing they will be met with support and understanding.
- We have an internal Wellbeing group to lead the #ThisPlaceMinds initiative internally. We have a series of blogs on our intranet, some authored and some anonymous, where people share their thoughts and experiences.
- During the Covid-19 lockdown, the Wellbeing team have issued weekly updates to provide training and suggestions for mental health during this challenging time.
- Established in early 2020, the Interfaith group is the newest of our Diversity Board strands. Upcoming initiatives include an article in our internal wellbeing newsletter, organising for an interfaith day in November and establishing Faith Strands so people of different faiths can connect.