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Law firm’s advert aims to recruit black men

Farringdon-based Leigh Day say previous attempts to increase diversity among their workforce have failed

28 August, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Frances Swaine: ‘I think the argument that we should keep going as we always have and appoint more white people is really unattractive right now in light of the Black Lives Matter movement and institutional racism’

A LEADING law firm has released a job advert exclusively seeking black men after an internal review found that there was just one male solicitor of African or Caribbean descent in its near 500-strong workforce.

Frances Swaine, managing partner at Farringdon-based Leigh Day, said she hoped other businesses would follow their lead as there is a problem “right across the industry”.

Leigh Day, which has taken on corporate giants such as Uber, British American Tobacco and Tesco, is offering three apprenticeship places to men of African or Caribbean descent with a starting salary of £21,500.

There is no age or qualification requirements other than they have completed A-levels.

Ms Swaine, who has been at the firm since 1991, said: “There is a lack of diversity right across the industry.

“What we are doing is a really positive move and more firms should follow.

“I think the argument that we should keep going as we always have and appoint more white people is really unattractive right now in light of the Black Lives Matter movement and institutional racism.”

Leigh Day has recruited a majority of its solicitors in the past through a graduate trainee route.

Over the years they have tried various methods to diversify their intake.

They have used a system called Rare which removes any information from applications that may play into someone’s unconscious bias – such as address, name, university or school.

“Unfortunately, for whatever reason it hasn’t worked,” said Ms Swaine.

“Since 2001 we have only managed to recruit a single person of African or Afro-Caribbean origin as a trainee solicitor. We reviewed our internal ethnic mix and, as it is the case for many firms, it did not make for comfortable reading.”

The apprenticeship lasts six years and students spend a day at university every week. Last year Leigh Day allowed women of colour to apply as well as men and of the roughly 45 applications they received 90 per cent were female.

They interviewed all the men but none of them was deemed to be as qualified as the women – six black female apprentices were taken on.

This led them to narrow the field further this year to target men of African and Caribbean origin.

The Tribune previously reported how Freshfields associate Anthony Ojukwu, of Clerkenwell, said he hoped he could inspire more black people into his industry after he was nominated for a Black British Business award.

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