Eight UK law firms kick off collaboration to increase race and ethnic diversity across the industry with the launch of Legal CORE

Today marks the launch of Legal CORE (Collaboration on Race and Ethnicity), the first leadership-led, cross-firm collective aimed at tackling the underrepresentation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups in the UK’s legal industry.

The eight founding firms – Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields, Herbert Smith Freehills, Linklaters, Macfarlanes, Norton Rose Fulbright and Slaughter and May – came together in 2020 to promote and amplify diversity and inclusion in the industry and jointly tackle the challenges they face in increasing representation.

According to the Law Society, across the top 50 law firms Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups are underrepresented at a partner level with twice as many White solicitors represented. Further research by the Law Society and Ethnic Minority Lawyers Division found that Black, Asian and ethnic minority solicitors reported lower levels of workplace wellbeing compared to White solicitors. Plus, retention rates for Black, Asian and ethnic minority solicitors are lower in larger City firms than for their White peers.

Paul Stacey, Executive Partner at Slaughter and May and Co-Chair of Legal CORE, said: “We know there needs to be a deeper focus on Black representation and an improvement across other ethnicities at law firms. When we came together as a group last year we were all in agreement that by acting unilaterally, firms can make progress, but ultimately we all have similar challenges, so a sector-wide approach will have a more sustainable impact.”

Legal CORE’s mission is to increase substantively the representation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals in private practice, working collectively to drive action and facilitate a fundamental shift across the legal sector. The founding firms have been working together over the past year to establish the collective and are now inviting other firms to join them. The group’s focus is on action-led initiatives and collaborative solutions to retain and promote ethnically diverse talent. Over the next couple of months Legal CORE, which is formed of diversity and inclusion leads and senior level partners from each firm, will be:

  • Piloting a Leadership Forum for senior leaders across the founding firms to facilitate conversations on championing race diversity and explore how to effect change within their firm
  • Hosting a cross-firm hackathon, inviting participants from across the legal industry to come together and crowdsource ideas on how to improve retention and progression for Black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals
  • Introducing a Best Practice Forum to share collective success and challenges on themes such as data analytics, reverse mentoring and retaining Black talent

Farmida Bi, Chair, Norton Rose Fulbright, Europe, Middle East and Asia (EMEA), said: “Legal CORE is different in that we are independent and law firm-led and therefore closer to the challenges that need to be addressed within private practice. Our intention is not to create a new charter or replicate existing work, but to be action orientated, act as a convening body for law firms, and provide a forum to find collaborative and innovative solutions. We all know that collaboration is a powerful incentive to keep attention fixed on progress over the longer term, so we’re really excited about this initiative.”

“This past year has been amazing in terms of coming together to share our experiences with peers in diversity and inclusion and tackle one of the most challenging and important issues of our time,” added Uzma Hamid-Dizier, Head of the Responsible Business and Inclusion at Slaughter and May and Legal CORE Steering Group Co-Chair. 

“There has been enormous value in the cross-firm conversations that have already taken place and we hope to welcome more firms to continue the momentum,” continued Siri Nomme, Head of Diversity and Social Purpose, EMEA at Norton Rose and Legal CORE Steering Group Co-Chair.”

For more information about becoming a Legal CORE member you can also visit the Legal CORE website