Freshfields boosts diversity with a quarter BME intake

More than 25 per cent of the next intake of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer ­London trainees are from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds, according to the magic circle firm’s latest corporate social responsibility report.

Kevin Hogarth
Kevin Hogarth

The latest figures mean that the proportion of trainees from BME backgrounds will have almost trebled in six years. In 2004 only 9 per cent of the intake classified itself as BME.

Currently 18 per cent of the firm’s trainees are from minority backgrounds.

Global HR director Kevin Hogarth said: “We knew that 9 per cent was probably a bit low. We felt we needed to do more and that, as one of the leading firms, that we had a responsibility to the profession as a whole.

“Improving access to the profession for people from [BME] backgrounds is something we’ve focused on.”

The firm admits that there is still work to be done in translating the improvement in non-white recruitment at trainee level to the wider fee-earning ranks. Currently only 10 per cent of lawyers at the firm are from BME backgrounds.

“This is our next challenge,” said Hogarth. “It’s no good bringing good ­candidates in to the firm if we can’t progress them towards senior positions and partnership.”

He added that the steps the firm has taken to improve gender diversity could act as a “blueprint”.

“We’re at an early stage, but this is the blueprint because we’ve been getting great feedback on these programmes.”

Freshfields launched its gender diversity initiative, which features counselling and mentoring programmes, at the start of the year.