Ethical Performance
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Norton Rose is top of big London law firms on diversity

September 2007

Norton Rose has emerged as the top-rated City firm in a diversity performance table for legal practices.

The international law firm, with 1000 lawyers in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, had the highest score among City legal practices in the 2007 Diversity League Table produced by the Black Solicitors’ Network, which represents ethnic minority lawyers in Europe.

The ranking is based on the proportion of ethnic minority and female staff employed at partner, associate partner, trainee and paralegal levels. Altogether 81 firms voluntarily submitted data. They included 63 of the largest UK practices, six from outside the top 100 and 12 international firms.

Norton Rose was especially praised for working with external agencies to promote itself to women and ethnic minorities, through open days and other methods. However, despite being the best City performer, it was 18th in the overall ranking, which was dominated by smaller firms. The best performer was the 22-partner UK law firm Flint Bishop based in the Midlands.

Patricia Chalé, a human resource management consultant and lead researcher for the league table, said diversity monitoring was relatively new to large law firms but was becoming more common, partly because of the influence of their multinational company clients.

Law firms also now want a more diverse workforce as they feel it confers ‘competitive advantage’.

Nonetheless, only a handful of the 81 firms had targets for employing women and individuals from ethnic minorities.

The statistics show many women and members of ethnic minorities are beginning to come through the lower ranks, but Chalé warned: ‘They must be given the opportunity to progress if the imbalances [at higher levels] are to be addressed.’

Firms highlighted for good practice included DLA Piper, which participates in local authority schemes to encourage employers to increase diversity in their workforces, Russell Jones & Walker, which has an ‘equality impact assessment’, and Weil Gotshal & Manges, which mentors students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

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