News

Reflecting on the year and finding space to come together


Written on 25 May 2021

A letter from Leona Briggs, Executive Board Race Champion at Osborne Clarke

It’s hard to believe today marks a year since the tragic death of George Floyd. The global movement of people and voices enshrined within the Black Lives Matter movement, sparked a debate about difference, racial justice and equality. Businesses pledged support as a catalyst for change. As part of that process we have all looked at our culture and the real desire to instil inclusion and ethnic diversity within the fabric of Osborne Clarke.

Based on our joint session with the Law Society on diversity in the profession and the various inter law firm discussions that have been had, it is clear that there is momentum for real change within both legal and business services in law firms. Much of this is driven by the changing perspective and demands of clients, and the diversity of firms’ own businesses and workforces. As a profession we must continue to hold ourselves accountable, so I look forward to seeing outcomes that will effect change over the next few years.

Our engagement week in 2020 and programme with the partners underscored the real dedication and enthusiasm of the members within Osborne Clarke’s Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage Network (OC Reach). Their views have been invaluable in shaping and guiding the business. They have helped our colleagues understand, contemplate and talk about the challenges and experiences that many racial and ethnic minority communities have faced and which are sometimes difficult to openly share.

I would like to thank our OC Reach colleagues for their dedication and commitment to fostering constructive discussions about race and bringing the firm together.

The feedback from the engagement week and subsequent focus groups was presented to the Executive Board and all Partners at the annual meeting and, it formed the basis for the OC Reach 2021 priorities. Following through on the commitments, I was appointed as Executive Board Race Champion and I have been working closely with the Board, Osborne Clarke’s Diversity and Inclusion Team and Rajindh Mangat, Ethnicity Champion, to accelerate progress towards greater representation and inclusion of racial and ethnic minorities at the firm.

Our key focus will continue to be overseeing and delivering on our recently announced Race Action Plan which supports our Race at Work Charter and Race Fairness Commitments. Designed to raise awareness and improve ethnic diversity at the firm, the plan includes a clear roadmap for change and visible accountability to deliver on our promises.

I am delighted to report we have made some progress towards delivering on our plans, but there is still some way to go:

We recently announced this year’s ethnicity pay gap statistics. The results underline the need for us to increase the proportion of ethnic minorities joining our firm and progressing through to partnership and senior management roles. We launched our independent review of our recruitment practices, to ensure we are attracting and hiring diverse talent, and expect to receive its findings this Summer.

Myself and a number of other senior leaders have been active in our inaugural reverse mentoring programme, which is helping to build understanding and empathy among partners and senior business leaders. It has been the most effective way of constructively understanding the reality of the lived experience and enabled us to ask questions freely while offering mutual support and understanding.

Also from the Summer we will focus on facilitating education and engagement across the firm on all aspects of diversity and inclusion. As part of the programme there will be a number of modules looking to educate colleagues about the language of race, allyship and what it means to be anti-racist.

We are currently reviewing our diversity targets, having begun collecting enhanced diversity data in 2021. The review will enable us to set meaningful, stretching-but-achievable targets in line with our 2025 business strategy. These will centre around ensuring people with protected characteristics experience the same outcomes through the employee lifecycle.

We also plan to develop and broaden support and outreach to racial and ethnic minority communities through the Stepping Up programme, annual mentoring programme and the 10,000 Black Interns initiative.

Thank you again to our OC Reach colleagues for your ongoing commitment to create solidarity across the firm.

Leona Briggs, Executive Board Race Champion at Osborne Clarke