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Magic circle firms attempt to improve diversity

Posted by: Laurence Simons 02/06/14

The days when diversity meant painting a wall of the office a different colour or occasionally having a day when everyone had to dress like a pirate are long gone - magic circle firms, as well as their biglaw counterparts - are now taking the issues around who they hire extremely seriously.

While obviously issues of image and public perception play a role in this, as diversity becomes a keynote issue for many young people, there is also a monetary factor involved.

Firms with a more diverse workforce have been shown many times to produce more innovative work than their 'pale and male' counterparts, while it makes obvious business sense to hire from the deepest possible talent pool.

With this in mind, the meaning of diversity has been widened to incorporate class and educational background as well as gender and ethnicity.

Global firm Baker & McKenzie's London office has hired employment partner Sarah Gregory as an inclusion and diversity officer, signalling its commitment to bringing in a wide array of staff.

Ms Gregory joined the firm in 1990, becoming a partner in the firm’s employment practice in 1999, meaning she brings a wealth of experience to the role.

"Having been engaged in diversity and inclusion issues in a number of guises throughout my career as an employment lawyer, this new role feels like a natural transition," said the lawyer.

"It's an incredibly exciting opportunity and one which I hope to use to effect change and develop a truly collaborative and inclusive culture," she added.

Elsewhere in the sector, Hogan Lovells is considering taking up a blind curriculum vitae in order to counter internal or subconscious bias towards candidates who carried out  their initial educational training at Oxbridge.

Much of the magic circle can appear to be completely staffed by public schoolboys with funny ties identifying which side of the boat they used to row on (or something, I'm a little hazy on what the ties actually mean), but this move highlights the attempts being made to rehabilitate its image.