A City law firm will become the first legal company in the UK to formalise its commitment to equality by appointing an inclusivity manager next week.
The legal profession has traditionally been seen as one of the most closed sectors in business when it comes to employing women and people from black and ethnic minority groups.
Just 3% of partners in the UK’s top 100 law firms come from ethnic minorities, according to The Lawyer magazine’s 2006 Diversity League Table.
The inclusivity manager at law firm Herbert Smith will work with external providers to promote best practice and oversee a diversity assessment programme.
John Lucy, head of HR at Herbert Smith, said: “There is clearly a business case for diversity, as well as a moral and ethical case.
“We have to make sure our inclusivity strategy is aligned with the company values and corporate social responsibility policy.”
The new recruit will report to Lucy and partner Martina Asmar, who chairs the current diversity steering group.
Sasha Scott, managing director of the Inclusive Diversity consultancy, said it was “unique for a UK law firm to have a specific person on board for diversity”.
Scott said hiring internal diversity specialists was becoming common practice in the US and at some investment banks in the UK.
But Janet Paraskeva, chief executive of the Law Society, said it was not absolutely necessary to have an in-house diversity adviser.
“There are many ways in which legal firms can make progress on equality and diversity issues. It is by no means essential to have a dedicated in-house specialist,” she said.
Lucy predicts that attitudes towards diversity will change significantly over the next few years.