Simmons ranks in Stonewall’s gay-friendly employers top 10

Simmons & Simmons has held onto its title as the most gay-friendly law firm for the fourth year running in LGB charity Stonewall’s employer rankings.

Simmons & Simmons was ranked 10th overall – and the top law firm – in Stonewall’s eighth annual list of the top 100 lesbian, gay and bisexual-friendly employers in the UK.

Simmons’ ranking marks the first time that a law firm has made it into the top ten. Last year the firm came nineteenth (12 January 2011).

Thirty-six legal employers submitted entries to the index this year. Other law firms to make the top 100 are Baker & McKenzie (19), Irwin Mitchell (33), Pinsent Masons (41), Hogan Lovells (62), Eversheds (73) and Herbert Smith (80).

Simmons & Simmons implemented two new LGB initiatives over the course of 2011, according to David Stone, IP partner and co-chair of the firm’s LGB network.

The first has been to ensure that the firm’s suppliers – such as the outsourcers that provide security staff to the offices – also reflect Simmons’ diversity policies. The second was the Straight Allies programme, which is headed by senior partner Colin Passmore and was created to ensure that LGB issues are not just left to be dealt with by LGB staff.

“The initiative was designed to make it clear that LGB issues are not just for LGB people,” said Stone. “If the issue was the police force being racist you wouldn’t say to black officers ‘do you mind sorting it out, please?’

“It’s a management issue and the burden shouldn’t fall on LGB staff, especially more junior staff, to point it out if something inappropriate has been said.”

Stone went on to say that although it gets harder each year to come up with initiatives to deal with LGB inequality there was still a lot to be done and that the next task was to bring the firm’s international offices in line with London.

“We will be looking at the international side of things, an area that Stonewall has not traditionally included in its index, but that may well change,” said Stone. “The challenge for law firms is to make all their offices as LGB friendly as London; for instance, in the Middle East, though we have to be careful to make sure that we don’t put local or seconded staff there in difficult positions. But it’s something we’re looking at.”

Stonewall’s rankings are based on the charity’s Workplace Equality Index, where employers submit entries by completing a self assessment that evaluates their performance against 25 questions across eight areas of good practice. These comprise employee policy, employee engagement, staff training and development, monitoring, supplier policy, LGB community engagement, and the ‘pink plateau’ (which concerns openly gay role models in senior positions).

Answers must be accompanied by evidence to get credit. Submissions are assessed by Stonewall’s Workplace team and its policy experts and augmented by feedback from staff at the firms and companies that submit.

“The way law firms look at the index is not competitive,” said Stone. “It’s one area where we all want to help each other and share best practices, and we do get together to talk about how we can improve things.”