Law firms challenge uniformity

Freshfields, Norton Rose make it onto Stonewall gay-friendly employers listing

It’s not often law firms can claim to be ahead of the curve, but this year’s Stonewall audit sees firms scrambling over each other to be more progressive in terms of diversity.

The rankings reveal the UK’s 100 most gay-friendly employers, measuring efforts to tackle discrimination and promote inclusive workplaces. They are a big deal for the legal sector, which boosts its presence in the top 100 from eight to 10 this year. The increase is being hailed as a significant step forward.

It is no longer an option for firms not to take notice of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights. In fact, firms now want to shout from the rooftops how inclusive they are – so much so that Stonewall upped the cut-off score to make it into the table from 137 points to 148. 

Two firms giving themselves big pats on the back are Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Norton Rose Fulbright, which made it into the overall table in joint 66th place, and ninth and 10th out of the law firms. 

Freshfields has been particularly busy – the firm supported London’s 2018 Gay Olympic bid through Halo, its LGBT network, founded in 2007.

Meanwhile, Norton Rose Fulbright, which rose 36 places this year, has been pushing a number of initiatives run by its LGBT network, launched in 2010. The network recently launched an ‘Anyone can be an Ally’ campaign to encourage non-LGBT colleagues to get involved with LGBT network events.

Despite the progress Pinsent Masons diversity champion and Stonewall chair David Isaac is pushing for more action. 

“More can be done on the LGBT front outside London,” he says. “Big issues remain in areas like family-friendly working practices, gender diversity and black and minority ethnic groups.”

The battle continues in his own backyard – Pinsent Masons fell significantly from 22nd to joint 45th position with Eversheds, although that can partly be attributed to tougher criteria.