Abbott urges 'esteemed' lawyers to go 'further and faster' on diversity

30 Jan 2014 | 10:19 am | 3 min. read

British law firms 'lagging US counterparts' according to MP. Diane Abbott MP has urged law firms to use their "esteemed position in business and society" to drive opportunity for black and ethnic minority groups.

The MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, and former Labour leadership contender, was speaking at an event hosted by international law firm Pinsent Masons in London to mark one of the firm's regular 'Diversity Days'.

Abbott, who was the first black woman to be elected to the House of Commons when she became an MP in 1987, told the firm's staff:

"Sadly British Law firms are lagging behind their American counterparts in taking diversity seriously. The legal profession is well-placed to influence both through its words and its deeds. It is therefore incumbent on the legal community to move as fast and as far as it can to address the inequality of opportunity that still exists, starting in its own back yard."

David Isaac, a Partner at Pinsent Masons and former Chairman of Stonewall who was awarded a CBE for services to equality and diversity in 2011, says: 

"The legal profession has been progressive in many areas of the diversity agenda, perhaps most notably in securing greater equality for the LGBT community. However, while The Law Society has done much to generate policy and stimulate change there is still a great deal to do to address the challenges facing those from black and minority ethnic communities, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds, in accessing our own and other professions.

Kate Fergusson, Corporate Responsibility Programme Manager at Pinsent Masons, says:

"Diversity and inclusion can no longer be an 'add on' or a 'box to tick' for law firms.  In 2014, creating an inclusive working environment is a key element in doing business responsibly and allows the profession to benefit from a diverse workforce, access the best talent, and generate innovative new ideas."

Ms. Abbott's speech, which was broadcast around Pinsent Masons offices, was the keynote event in an ongoing programme of activity carried out across Pinsent Masons' offices to celebrate diversity in the workplace and raise awareness of its diversity initiatives covering BME, Family, Multi-Faith, Disability, LGBT and Female Futures. 

The firm was recently named among the top 100 employers in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index for the sixth consecutive year.

Notes to editors

Whilst diversity day is an opportunity to reflect on the issue, it is only a small part of on an ongoing programme of activity conducted by Pinsent Masons including social events, seminars, training and volunteering.  Example activity includes:

  • Last year, members of our BME Network Group worked with East London Business Alliance to run a careers event for students at Rokeby School in Newham. 
  • Our Female Futures network is supporting The Aspire Foundation, a charity which provides pro-bono mentoring for women who work in the third sector, from senior women mentors in the small business and corporate world.  We have hosted events for Aspire, inviting our own clients and business contacts to get involved.
  • Pinsent Masons is one of the founding members of DiversCity, the first LGBT focussed legal careers event for students and graduates.  DiversCity is supported by our graduate recruitment team, working in collaboration with our LGBT Network Group and a number of other law firms, and its success over the last three years has resulted in a spin off mentoring programme.

About Pinsent Masons

Pinsent Masons employs over 2500 people in total including over 1500 lawyers, 500 of whom are based in Pinsent Masons' international headquarters in the City of London.

The firm has market-leading UK coverage, with a significant presence in each of the UK's three legal jurisdictions. Its international profile encompasses four offices in Asia Pacific, two offices in the Gulf and two offices in Europe. The firm also launched a presence in Turkey in 2013.

  • Pinsent Masons LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England & Wales (registered number: OC333653) authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and by the appropriate regulatory body in the other jurisdictions in which it operates. The word ‘partner’, used in relation to the LLP, refers to a member of the LLP or an employee or consultant of the LLP or any affiliated firm who is a lawyer with equivalent standing and qualifications. A list of the members of the LLP, and of those non-members who are designated as partners, is displayed at the LLP’s registered office: 30 Crown Place, London EC2A 4ES, United Kingdom.
  • We use ‘Pinsent Masons’ to refer to Pinsent Masons LLP and affiliated entities that practise under the name ‘Pinsent Masons’ or a name that incorporates those words. Reference to ‘Pinsent Masons’ is to Pinsent Masons LLP and/or one or more of those affiliated entities as the context requires. © Pinsent Masons LLP 2014.
  • Pinsent Masons office network includes the major international business and financial centres of London, Munich, Paris, Doha, Dubai, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore and the key business centres in the UK.

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