Eversheds‘ demands for diversity” class=”inline_image inline_image_left” src=”/pictures/web/images/12339_Wilson.jpg” />An Eversheds plan to launch an alliance forcing recruitment agencies to tackle diversity has ignited a massive row as recruiters argue that the blame for the lack of diversity in the profession lies squarely with law firms.
At The Lawyer’s Diversity in Law 2008 conference last month, Eversheds head of diversity, Caroline Wilson, warned that recruiters were “getting away with murder” by not monitoring race, gender or sexuality, but now the recruitment industry has hit back.
Glass Consultancy’s Jonathan Glass argued: “The only candidates able to be introduced by legal recruiters to their clients are qualified lawyers. If this target market is not a diverse one, that is due to the recruitment systems put in place by the law firms themselves.”
Eversheds is under pressure from Tyco, one of its biggest clients, to increase its number of female partners and lawyers from ethnic minority backgrounds.
It will receive a sixfigure bonus if it meets diversity targets set by thecompany. One senior recruiter slammed Wilson’s comments as “absolutely insane”.
He claimed: “Eversheds is caught up in all this because of Tyco.”
Wilson admitted that the diversity drive had gathered pace because of the influence of companies such as Tyco.
She said: “Our clients are asking us. We now have to ask our supply chain to take diversity seriously.”
Pinsent Masons HR director Jonathan Bond said he expected most agencies to regard it as a positive step. He said: “Traditionally recruiters did not demand this information from candidates.
“If our clients are asking us to do something, that is sufficient incentive [for recruiters] to do it.”
Clifford Chance diversity manager Sarah Twite also said she would consider signing up to the scheme.
But headhunter Nick Woolf of Sainty Hird & Partners said: “Law firms need to look at themselves.”
The problem, Woolf argued, was that firms needed to hire employees from a broader academic base, rather than focusing on those from traditional universities.
Wilson said: “The supply [of staff ] has been short over the last few years while law firms have been expanding. That’s about to change. Everyone is reining in and now the shoe is on the other foot.”