Slaughter and May announces Social Mobility targets

Slaughter and May has become the first major law firm to set Social Mobility targets, backed by a comprehensive action plan.

The targets aim to increase the representation of lower socio-economic background (LSEB) individuals in the firm as follows:

  • Total population to 25% by 2033 from a baseline of 18.8%.
  • Lawyer population to 15% by 2033 from a baseline of 10%.
  • Business Services population to 40% by 2033 from a baseline of 34.7%.

The targets use parental occupation at the age of 14 to measure an individual’s socio-economic background. This is the Government-backed and widely established indicator for measuring social mobility. The firm will publish its progress against its targets in its annual Responsible Business Report.

Having access to the best available talent, from a diverse range of backgrounds, is critical to the firm’s sustained success. A lower socio-economic background can be a barrier to accessing and succeeding in the legal profession and as a result the proportion of LSEB individuals in the legal profession is significantly lower than the national average.

The publication of the targets builds on the firm’s work over the past decade to open up access to joining the legal profession through its programmes, which include Lead into Law and the Law Springboard, and financial support for undergraduates  through the Slaughter and May Scholarship Scheme. The firm was one of the first law firms to use the Rare Contextual Recruitment System as part of its trainee recruitment (which contextualises academic achievement against a range of socio-economic data).

Robust data is important for setting targets and measuring progress. The firm partnered with the Bridge Group, an expert not for profit social equality consultancy and conducted a workforce analysis, using data collected over a 10-year period, as well as further modelling and analysis to determine the right targets to set.

This work showed that:

  • The firm has a disclosure rate of socio-economic background (SEB) data among its employees of over 70%. This high figure means the data underlying the targets and the progress being measured is robust and reliable.
  • Progression, retention and performance of individuals from LSEB in the firm’s lawyer population is the same as their peers from other socio-economic backgrounds.
  • The firm’s Business Services LSEB population, at 34.7%, is already close to the national census figure of 39%.

The firm is launching an action plan to deliver the targets announced today and drive a higher representation of LSEB individuals across the firm. This includes:

  • Ensuring the firm is seen as an attractive proposition for individuals of all backgrounds
  • Voluntary reporting of social mobility related pay gaps as part of annual pay gap reporting.

Steve Cooke, Senior Partner at Slaughter and May said: “We want to be more intentional in our continued search for talent to ensure we bring the best people into our business. The targets we have announced today, together with others we have set in relation to gender and ethnicity, are part of an overall approach to ensure we are reaching the widest possible talent pool.”

Deborah Finkler, Managing Partner at Slaughter and May said: “Tracking the socio-economic make up of our workforce over a long period of time means that we have confidence in the data we are using to set these public targets and measure our progress. This focus and transparency means we can hold ourselves accountable and sends a clear message about our intentions to enhance and maintain a diverse workforce.”

Andrew Jolly, Corporate Partner and Chair of the Slaughter and May Social Mobility Working Group added: “Our detailed work with the Bridge Group shows that when LSEB lawyers come to Slaughter and May their progression is strong and they are just as likely as their peers from other socio-economic backgrounds to succeed in the firm. The targets and actions we have announced today focus on ensuring this continues to be the case as well as making the firm an attractive place to work for people from a wide range of backgrounds.”

Nik Miller, Chief Executive, the Bridge Group commented: “Addressing social mobility is a complex area for businesses and requires rigorous and robust data and analysis, backed by practical action. In taking this transparent approach and setting ambitious but realistic targets, Slaughter and May is leading the legal sector. We hope that this will inspire others to follow suit.”

The Social Mobility Commission added: "The Social Mobility Commission recommends that employers collect SEB data to understand organisational diversity and inform an action plan. When targets are set, best practice is to base them on benchmarks that reflect the requirements of the role, in order that they do not undermine a meritocratic recruitment and progression process. The thorough benchmarking analysis that Slaughter and May have undertaken sets a new standard for the sector."

Uzma Hamid-Dizier, Director of Responsible Business at Slaughter and May, said: “The partnership’s dedication to setting targets and making progress in this area is impressive and I am really pleased that we have been able to announce these targets today. We believe that improving socio-economic diversity will also have broader diversity benefits and this is an important part of the ongoing aim of finding the best talent and increasing the diversity of our workforce.”

Slaughter and May's Social Mobility Action Plan can be viewed here.

You can also view our full 2023 Social Mobility report here