Freshfields names social mobility ‘sponsor’ as part of diversity push

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has appointed real estate lawyer Annette Byron as its partner in charge of social mobility.

Byron will support the firm’s social mobility programmes as the ‘sponsor’ responsible for the area.

She will continue in her role as the sponsor for ethnicity initiatives, with the magic circle firm operating a six-pronged system in which one partner is responsible for each area.

London managing partner Mark Rawlinson is responsible for work-life balance and flexible working, IP partner Avril Martindale for gender, disputes partner Andrew Austin for sexual orientation and risk, and compliance director Jonathan Kembery for disability.

They all operate under global diversity and inclusion head Kate Laffar, who took over from Deborah Dalgleish last year after the incumbent moved to Ashurst (28 July 2011). Laffer, Martindale and Rawlinson sit on the global diversity committee, which senior partner Will Lawes chairs.

Lawes said in a statement: “The legal profession still needs to do more to encourage wider access and opportunities for progression for the very best talent, regardless of background, race or gender.”

Byron commented: “What’s important is that those from diverse backgrounds are given the opportunity to make it to the very top of our profession, so that they too can become role models for the next generation. I’m looking forward to developing further initiatives to encourage those from non-traditional backgrounds both to have the confidence to choose the law as a career and to thrive.”

Freshfields was one of 23 signatories to Prime, a social mobility scheme launched last year that requires members to provide between 30 and 35 hours’ quality work experience per eligible individual (14 September 2011).