Linklaters strengthens and restructures its Diversity policies in a management and control committee in Paris

Five years ago, Linklaters signed the Charter of Diversity and the issue became an integral component of the firm’s identity. In supporting this charter, Linklaters confirmed its commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility and expressed its determination to fight discrimination and promote diversity on a wide scale within the firm. 

Paul Lignières, Managing Partner of the Paris office, remarks, “We are convinced that measures taken to increase diversity will only reap rewards if they are carried out on a large scale, made public and put in place in a proactive policy framework by the management of the office. We also strongly believe in spreading all these practices throughout the profession. Incidentally, a major topic of the General Council of the Bar in 2010 was the firm’s commitments to CSR and our policies vested in improving diversity within the workplace. As we notice that the initiatives that we have launched, and continued for many years, have been picked up by some of our colleagues, we know that we have achieved one of our goals: succeeding in raising awareness of CSR among the legal community and bringing it to the front of their minds as a primary concern.

For several years Linklaters has taken concrete, measurable action to promote diversity through its HR policies and its Pro Bono programme for the benefit of the communities who partake in it. All of these Diversity practices in Paris form part of the global Diversity and Inclusion policy deployed in each of the 29 offices worldwide, and notably build on three fundamental pillars based on tangible action:

Raising awareness and educating

  • Publication of an annual CSR report since 2010: this report, available on our website and sent to our clients and corporate partners, summarises the actions we have taken and the commitments we have made;
  • Improving pro bono services from both a quantitative and qualitative perspective: Linklaters associates offer a wide range of services, from legal advice to business start-ups supported by the Association for the right to economic initiative, supporting the réseau Etincelle, which introduces youths who don’t have a degree to the principles of entrepreneurship, helping teach youths enrolled in the Ecole de la Deuxième Chance, a school for aspirational but unqualified youths, supporting the Frateli association, which develops and frames the patronage of young high-potential students who come from modest backgrounds, and also welcoming secondary school students to partake in the “One day, one subject initiative”, helping them discover in one day their professional environment, and furthermore participating in the Défis Mécénova, an entrepreneurial initiative investing in the future, organised by the IMS Entreprendre pour la Cité;
  • Linklaters has equally been involved for several years in the RISE component (Responsaibilté et Innovation Sociale de l’Entreprise) of the Clinique de l’Ecole de droit de Sciences Po, which is interested in the development of socially responsible and innovative practices, notably at the heart of this firm. This tutelage framework, also run by Pierre Olivier Sur, President of the Paris Bar, and Christophe Jamin, Director of the law school at Sciences Po, led to the presentation, in October 2014, of the first French report dedicated to Social Responsibility of law firms;
  • On a global scale, in 2014 Linklaters gave structure to its Diversity policies with the arrival of Daniel Danso, Diversity Manager, responsible for piloting and optimising all of the practices put in place in different offices, under the guidance of Partner Kathryn Ludlow, named early-May, Global Head of Corporate Responsibility.

Recruiting and promoting differently

  • Since 2014, Linklaters has set itself an objective of a 30% proportion of females within both the Executive Committee and the International Board of the firm. Furthermore, the 30% target is set to apply to Partner elections on a global level (females represented 30% of the newly-elected partners in 2015);
  • The set-up of the “Women Leadership Programme”, to allow female associates to fully develop their potential. In Paris, five associates take part in the mentoring programme, aiming, in particular, to fight against subconscious bias and genre stereotypes, while others benefit from coaching from Sciences Po with regards to these issues;
  • Creation of the Linklaters/Sciences Po Diversity Scholarship Programme in November 2014, and for the fifth consecutive year Linklaters has offered, on the basis of social criteria and academic background, a scholarship worth €12,000 a year to a student in order to help support his or her studies and to provide a clearer path to the legal profession. The firm has also committed to offering the student an internship;
  • Welcoming interns from the Ecole de la deuxième chance de Saint-Denis, a back-to-work association for 18-25 year olds who have left the educational system without qualifications, giving them training tailored to their professional aspirations. We have notably offered some of these former interns training contracts;
  • Taking note of training and the universities/schools of the candidates in our database, in order to measure the impact of our diversification policies on sourcing.

Evaluating and getting to know the policies

  • Linklaters’ global commitment to diversity is consistently admired: in 2014, the Euromoney European Women in Business Law Awards distinguished law firms and consultancy firms alike for their efforts towards the promotion of women. For the second consecutive year, the firm received the prize for Best International Law Firm for talent management. In 2013, the firm had already won the prize for policies towards women. Moreover, Linklaters is the only Magic Circle law firm to feature in The Times Top 50 Female Employers in 2014 and the firm’s efforts in terms of talent progression were recognised in the Diversity League Table Awards 2013.

A lasting and sustainable commitment in 2015

The two-year contract renewal of the Managing Partner of the Paris office in April 2014 gave Paul Lignières the chance to reaffirm his commitment to CSR and Diversity, already firmly implemented within the identity of Linklaters. He was also named member of the Conseil d’administration d’IMS Entreprendre pour la Cité in 2015. This organisation, which adopts the Charter of Diversity, brings together 250 companies engaged in CSR policies.

Moreover, Linklaters decided to give structure to its Diversity & Inclusion commitments through an authentic action plan with a clear objective, whose implementation and performances will be controlled by a Management Committee composed of all the relevant parties from the firm (partners, associates and members of support teams).

Françoise Maigrot, Partner in charge of Diversity policies, comments: “The promotion of diversity is a major axis of our Corporate Responsibility policies. As a responsible law firm, it is necessary for us to select from the widest possible range of high-potential lawyers and support-staff.

Two worksites already have taken up seats on the Committee: the implementation of an active partnership with Plan International France and the roll-out of the “Linklaters Allies” initiative in the Paris office.

  • Plan International is a non-governmental, non-political international humanitarian organisation with no religious affiliation. Founded in 1937 and set up in France in 1993, Plan International implements community development projects based on the welfare of children in interdependent areas: health, education, child protection, economic security, environment, water and purification.
  • Linklaters’ Paris office is committed to supporting the “Appui à l’éducation des filles dans l’arrondissement de Yaoundé II, au Cameroun project, for which the objective is to contribute to the improvement of access, security and quality of primary school education for children from six to 15 years old, particularly girls. This priority objective includes reinforcing, by two years from now, awareness and the mobilisation of key actors in the sector to support better education in Cameroon.
  • The “Allies” programme was launched in October 2014 in London and will be rolled out in the Paris office by summer 2015. “Allies” are people (whatever their seniority or role) who are committed in a personal capacity to a more inclusive work environment. To be an “Ally” is to make an effort to inform, make your voice heard, behave honestly and campaign in favour of equality. An Ally is a colleague who lobbies in favour of communities to which he has no affiliation, for example:

        - A man who supports women’s rights;

        - A heterosexual who is engaged in LGBT issues.

The will behind this initiative is to allow Linklaters associates to have a positive impact on their work environment, to humanise the professional world and to avoid purely financially motivated strategies that could lead us to forget that we collectively build our workplaces.