Company: Norton Rose Fulbright
Company Website: www.nortonrosefulbright.com
Year Introduced: 2021
What Makes this Initiative Unique:
Corporate legal departments understand the value of diversity. While many large firms talk about improving diversity, they almost always fail to recruit in ways that actually yield results, and they also fail to make the changes to firm culture and work-life matters that make it possible to retain diverse talent. With the Racial Equity Council’s unwavering commitment to advancing racial equality, Norton Rose Fulbright has done both and is contributing to the changing face of the legal industry.
The Why Behind the Purpose:
Following a year of traumatic events and social injustice in the US and around the world, Norton Rose Fulbright recognized the urgent need — coupled with the unique opportunity of the moment — and chose to prioritize the advancement of social justice and racial equality. The Racial Equity Council was formed with a mission to improve the experience of Black personnel and advancing racial equity throughout the firm.
The Positive Change:
With the full support of firm management, we made significant progress toward these goals in a number of ways over the last 18 months, including:
- Significantly increasing the number of Black attorneys at the firm through an aggressive approach to recruiting and hiring Black talent.
- Identifying and implementing process changes to promote equity in leadership and promotion opportunities for our business services personnel through open and consistent dialogue with firm leadership.
- We also seized every opportunity to connect Black personnel across the firm’s offices through formal and informal events that promoted fellowship and sense of belonging.
The efforts have been demonstrably successful. In the 2021 Summer Program, the firm had a total of 13 summer associates across offices that identified as Black, a significant increase over recent years. The firm extended offers to 12 of those students, and all 12 accepted the offers.
The pilot sponsorship program pairs each Black non-partner lawyer with an established partner along with a Council partner advocate. It is designed to maximize the opportunities for Black non-partner lawyers to succeed through career development and increased visibility, support, and opportunity. With the full implementation of the program, the Council saw improved utilization and participants almost universally reported an enhanced sense of belonging and engagement.
Additionally, the firm selected championing social justice as its 2021 Global Charitable Initiative, a program focused on one cause annually through fundraising, pro bono, and volunteering efforts. Significant time and resources have been funneled into the cause, including proceeds from the 2021 Run Against Racism, a charity 10k/5k run, which we organized and hosted.
While the road to racial equity will be long and arduous, we are primed to effect real and lasting change for our Black personnel, the firm and in our communities with the full support of firm leadership. The firm has committed resources to in-house programming to combat racial bias, including a quarterly speaker series to educate all firm personnel on topics related to racial equity and implicit bias training for all hiring managers. We will continue to proactively create an inclusive culture and will strive to never stop improving.