Bakers and Cleary fly US flag in Stonewall’s legal top 10

Baker & McKenzie and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton are the only US firms to be recognised in LGB charity Stonewall’s legal sector top 10.

Maurits Dolmans
Maurits Dolmans

Cleary is a new entrant in the leaderboard, which was last night unveiled by the charity, gaining recognition for the progress it has made on policy and practice.

Cleary partner Maurits Dolmans, who sits on the firm’s diversity committee, told The Lawyer that diversity of all kinds was “part of our DNA”, pointing out that when the firm was established in the 1940s it was set up by “an Irish Catholic, a Jew, a Norwegian and a Wasp”, which was “unusual at the time”.

Over the last year Cleary’s London office has launched diversity training for all its legal and non-legal staff, hiring actors to create role-plays around different scenarios of discrimination and also has a gay and lesbian network that counts out partners among its members.

Baker & McKenzie was the highest climber in the list, going from 10th place last year to fifth this year. The firm successfully represented UNHCR in relation to a number of landmark Supreme Court cases that ruled on the position of LGBT refugees.

Despite the strong showing from these two firms, the lack of critical mass in London and the focus on New York-driven initiatives explains the absence of many US firms from the list.

An HR manager at a major US firm in London that did not make it into the top 10 commented: “We’ve been members of Stonewall for a number of years and take this area very seriously, but one of the areas that’s given a lot of weighting is having a network group and if you have a smaller office the percentage of people that would be involved would be a lot less.”

But Cleary’s Dolmans said he did not believe that size should be an influencing factor. “This is the responsibility not just of the firm, but of each individual office and lawyer,” he added. “[In our case] it’s not directed just from New York, it’s more of a grassroots thing.”

Stonewall director of workplace programmes David Shields said: “Law firms have made massive strides in LGB equality in the past three years and we’re delighted to celebrate the top 10 performers with the InterLaw Diversity Forum. The picture, however, is mixed across the sector as a whole – for example, nationally we have a lack of engagement in our Diversity Champions programme in Scotland.”

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer saw its ranking drop from sixth to eighth place, while Eversheds fell from fourth to sixth.

Freshfields global HR partner Caroline Stroud said: “I think the reason our placing dropped is because it’s got a lot more competitive. We’re the highest-placed magic circle firm and I think it shows we’ve certainly tried very hard. We’re very keen to do a lot better.”

Seven of the ten firms made it into the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index of 100 top employers, which was announced earlier this year (12 January 2011), an improvement from just four firms the previous year.

Legal Sector top 10

Rank Firm 2011 Firm 2010
1 Simmons Simmons
2 Pinsent Masons Pinsent Masons

3 Hogan Lovells Herbert Smith
4 Herbert Smith Eversheds
5 Baker & McKenzie Lovells
6 Eversheds Freshfields
7 Irwin Mitchell The Law Society
8 Freshfields Irwin Mitchell
9 Allen & Overy SJ Berwin
10 Cleary Gottlieb Baker & McKenzie