"I have become part of a company which cares as much for its employees as it does for its clients."
The UK hails as a country brimming with a multicultural society, containing a diverse range of highly-skilled and talented individuals.
Diversity is an important focus for many industries; one of which includes the law profession.
It recognises the value a diverse workplace can bring. This includes an eclectic mix of new ideas and expertise, experience and talent to help form innovative solutions.
Law firms such as Trowers & Hamlins celebrate and instil a diverse culture to ensure that individuals from all backgrounds are placed on an equal footing. The firm encourages opportunities for its staff based on individual merits with a particular focus in developing its solicitors as future leaders in the law profession.
Trowers & Hamlins recognises “the main focus as not just being one specific strand of diversity, but a broader, holistic approach across the board”.
Let’s take a closer look at why diversity is important in the law profession, particularly for British Asians with solicitor, Neena Sangha, from Trowers & Hamlins.
In a firm like Trowers & Hamlins LLP which has a large number of employees, how do you measure diversity?
The key for the firm is ensuring buy-in from senior management, but also engagement with staff, so that initiatives are driven by them rather than it being viewed as simply another initiative put out by HR.
The firm strongly believes that a commitment to diversity and inclusion is essential to reflect the society we serve today. In addition to helping the firm to attract and retain the best talent, it enables Trowers & Hamlins to understand and meet clients’ needs more effectively and so provide a better quality service.
Trowers & Hamlins is also proud to be one of 40 leading firms who are founding signatories to the Law Society Diversity and Inclusion Charter, the flagship diversity initiative of the legal profession. Other organisations with whom the firm are involved include:
- Black Solicitors Network ~ Trowers & Hamlins came in 8th for a number of female partners.
- Aspiring Solicitors ~ an organisation focused on increasing diversity within the legal profession.
- Stonewall ~ Trowers & Hamlins is a member of the Stonewall Diversity Champions Programme, Britain’s leading good practice forum on sexual orientation in the workplace.
When accounting for a diverse working place, what are 3 things that matter most to you?
- Good diversity statistics in a law firm as it provides a helpful indication as of how important it is to a firm;
- Taking the lead in diversity events and initiatives in the workplace that employees participate in; and
- Focusing on recruiting individuals from different socio-economic backgrounds.
What do you think the law sector can do better to promote diversity?
It is important for lawyers within the legal sector when attending events such as University Law Fairs to promote the diversity initiatives their firms take part in as well as its training contract opportunities.
For example, Trowers & Hamlins’ diversity committee regularly holds internal ‘Trowers Includes’ talks and has covered presentations on topics including black history month, LGBTQ+ and Sikhism.
Even at a graduate level, Trowers & Hamlins’ aim is to focus on diversity in addition to the required attributes when considering candidates.
This evidenced by the fact that the firm has trainees of different ages and ethnicities, a good male to female ratio and are recruited from a broad range of institutions, not just limited to the Russell Group universities.
The firm also has a Paralegal Academy which provides an alternative route for obtaining a Training Contract.
Which parts of law sector and profession are not as diverse as they could be?
It could be argued that a lot of the senior partner positions are not as diverse as they could be in most law firms. Historically, this may be due to lack of alternative routes into the legal profession and old-fashioned prejudices.
In relation to the latter, that doesn’t appear to be the case at Trowers & Hamlins where it’s senior partner, Jennie Gubbins, has proved to be a strong advocate of setting the tone at the top, citing the fact that “nearly 47% of Trowers’ partnership is female”, a much greater number than comparator firms.
When did you choose law as a career and why?
From an early age, my parents have always encouraged me to pursue a career that I am passionate about and wish to succeed in long-term. By placing a high focus on the importance of a good education and encouraging my siblings and I to instil a hard work ethic early on i.e. getting Saturday jobs from the age of 16 years old, proved to be an essential motivation for my legal career.
My parent’s motivation for my siblings and I stemmed from the fact that neither of my parents or grandparents had attended college / University and accordingly missed out on the opportunities to pursue careers that they were passionate about or could have excelled in. Essentially it was a generational cycle which my parents were keen for me to break away from and succeed on my own merits with the opportunities available to me.
Therefore, being part of the first generation in my family to go to University, I wanted to ensure that when selecting my subjects for A-level / University, it was a discipline I felt consistently challenged by and above all, really enjoyed.
Having thrived in the law subject at A-level led me to follow it on in more depth as a degree. Although academics were pertinent, I knew it wasn’t just about getting good grades as that was a given, I needed to acquire a practical sense of the type of work involved with commercial solicitors.
Accordingly, I gained relevant legal experience in a commercial law firm which allowed me to attain a wide range of exposure to the work a solicitor does on a day-to-day basis and, in turn, motivated me to succeed in securing a training contract as I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the law profession.
At Trowers & Hamlins LLP, how does the career structure differ from others to accommodate a more diverse workforce?
For everyone at Trowers & Hamlins, all employees are judged on their own performance and merits of their role irrespective of their background and ethnicity. Everyone is on an equal playing field.
The firm’s Paralegal Academy also provides an alternative career path, through which the firm sponsors qualification through CiLex, allowing for development into a wide range of fee-earning roles.
Do you think the term diversity is being used as a ‘tick in the box’ by law firms or is there a real sea change on the horizon?
For any business to be relevant, it has to reflect those it serves. Whilst some firms may have been slower to approach diversity there is a real change in the sector.
Trowers & Hamlins has long been a champion of diversity and the firm’s diversity committee constantly strives for changes by promoting diversity internally and externally of the firm.
With the UK becoming more diverse, why should young people from BAME communities consider a career in law?
Passionate individuals should still pursue a career in law regardless of their background.
It offers an excellent training, academic rigour and ability to work with a broad range of individuals and organisations.
As one can see, Trowers & Hamlins is keen to develop and nurture diverse talent in the law profession. Trainee Solicitor Baljinder Singh Atwal spoke of his rewarding time with the firm, saying:
“Trowers truly believes in equality and fair opportunities for all. It understands that hard-working, determined and skilled individuals come from all backgrounds.
“Working at Trowers, I have thrived in an ethos which values people as individuals. I have become part of a firm which cares as much for its employees as it does for its clients.”
Manpreet Kandola, who also works as a Trainee Solicitor praised Trowers & Hamlins for its “positive working environment where all individuals are celebrated irrespective of who they are”.
Paralegal Meera Solanki added: “We all pride ourselves on being part of a firm who values hard work, skill and dedication over any other factor (be it gender, race or seniority).
“This sense of equality is engrained in its ethos, to the extent that it is our second nature. I am certainly proud to be working for such a firm.”
Trowers & Hamlins hails as a shining example of providing fulfilling careers for British Asians. By celebrating the rewards of diversity, the firm nurtures the innovative and creative ideas its workforce produce.
Along with a focus on expertise and talent, they give candidates the determination to aspire to their dreams! In addition, the firm truly reflects our multicultural society.
Through Neena’s words, one can see the importance of diversity in the legal profession offering individuals the chance to begin a worthwhile career in this prestigious sector.
To find out more about Trowers & Hamlins, visit their website here.