Covid 19 Crisis - Can we afford (not) to invest in equality, diversity and inclusion initiatives?

11 June 2020

In 2012 we formed an LGBTQ* & Allies network at Kingsley Napley (KN).  I’m ashamed to say that the impetus to form this network came not from within, but from Scott, a new joiner who upon his arrival was surprised, and critical (rightly so) to find that no such network existed at KN.   

Our network is now almost unrecognisable from its early beginnings.  We have nearly 30 members, with representatives from across the KN’s practice areas and support teams.  Our Senior Partner, Stephen Parkinson , fulfils a vital role as a senior leader and ally who attends our meetings and vocally champions the work of the network.   We are supported by a Senior Marketing Assistant, Harry Parker, who ensures that the network keeps a high profile both inside and outside of KN, as well as HR, who encourage our contributions to the development of policies and procedures that impact on LGBTQ* staff.

When I reflect on how far we have come since those early days the single thing that I am most proud of is the commitment and contribution of our junior colleagues to the network.  From the invaluable drive and passion of my network co-chair Criminal Litigation Associate, Emily Elliott to the enthusiasm and energy of all of those who have contributed to our events and annual LGBTQ* blog series

It takes great courage for anyone and especially those at the start of their career to be ‘out’ in the workplace.  In 2018, Stonewall released research that showed more than a third of LGBTQ* staff (35 per cent) have hidden they are LGBTQ* at work and almost one in five LGBTQ* employees (18 per cent) have been the target of negative comments from colleagues because of their identity.

I feel proud to work for a firm where junior LGBTQ* colleagues feel sufficiently respected by their managers to be able to conspicuously contribute to the work of their network.  At KN this is not just a feature of the LGBTQ* & Allies network.  In recent years the firm’s BAME and (dis)Ability networks have raised their profiles, held excellent events and attracted new members.  Again, the contribution of our junior colleagues to the work of both of those networks has been instrumental in their success.

Now more than ever, it is important that the progress made by networks such as our own continues to thrive.  The Covid 19 crisis has shone a bright light on why a good working culture is central to the success of any organisation.  As my colleagues Julie Norris and Jessica Clay recently explained; at the heart of maintaining a positive working culture is the way in which we support equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiatives in our organisations. These initiatives are likely to be different depending on the firm, but examples might relate to increasing representation of female and/or BAME solicitors at more senior levels in your firm, or recruiting trainees or apprentices from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. 

In these difficult times, many law firms will be reviewing budgets and business plans for the 20/21 financial year.  Many will consider that easy savings can be made by cutting expenditure on the ‘nice to have’ EDI initiatives that they had otherwise planned to support.   As Chair of KN’s Diversity and Inclusion group and co-chair of our LGBTQ* and Allies network, I am delighted to report that we are continuing to invest in our ‘must have’ EDI initiatives. We are committed to making sure that all the hard work which has already been invested is not laid to waste so that when we eventually come out of this crisis we retain our excellent working culture.  After all, that’s what our junior colleagues, our future leaders, would expect.

About the author

Melinka Berridge is a regulatory and criminal lawyer specialising in the field of private prosecutions. Her practice encompasses all areas of regulatory enforcement and she is highly ranked in the UK’s leading legal directories in the field of professional discipline.

Melinka is a founding member of firm’s Diversity and Inclusion group as well as their LGBTQ* & Allies network .


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