It is a real privilege to provide a foreword for this publication.
As a senior lawyer and leader (who also happens to be black, female and a mother), working for the world’s largest biotech company, I have had more than my fair share of obstacles to overcome in reaching my current position.
On trying to enter the profession almost 18 years ago, I was initially held back because of bias in relation to my African name. After making 150 phone calls to senior lawyers within law firms and in-house legal teams, I eventually secured my first job in law. This early experience made me acutely aware that the playing field was not level, more so when I experienced significant challenges when returning to work after a year’s maternity leave a few years later.
Diversity and inclusion is of paramount importance for so many reasons. There is a compelling business case for diversity as confirmed by multiple reports and studies. The more diverse an organisation is, the better the quality of decision-making, leading to a more profitable, well-governed organisation. Aside from the business case, this is the right thing to do. I believe that nothing should stand in the way of true talent. This directory is full of examples of employers who are committed to ensuring that talent can be maximised irrespective of social class, ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. The employers featured in this directory recognise that diversity of thought can only be achieved by recruiting and retaining a talented, diverse pool of staff.
I am honoured to have supported Aspiring Solicitors since inception, serving as a Senior Advisory Board Member and Professional Ambassador. Aspiring Solicitors has grown exponentially over the last five years and I very much look forward to achieving our vision of a truly diverse legal profession.
Funke Abimbola MBE
Senior Advisory Board Member, Aspiring Solicitors General Counsel and Head of Financial Compliance, Roche UK
This pioneering directory showcases the action at institutional level, rather than rhetoric, we need to change our profession from within. Progress has been made but we have a long way to go.
I am honoured to have been asked to write this Foreword for the Aspiring Solicitors Legal Diversity and Inclusion Directory. From personal experience, I know how difficult it can be to break into a career in law unless you have the right connections or fit into a particular mould. I also know that structural barriers and biases (conscious and unconscious) are real, and that individuals who choose to speak up about the resulting inequity can encounter isolation and victimisation.
The fear of retaliation can prevent change by silencing people when their voices most need to be heard. Individuals from underrepresented backgrounds
have not reached senior leadership levels in the numbers needed to expedite the changes required from ‘safe’ positions of power within our profession. The dedicated work of Aspiring Solicitors and similar organisations is therefore crucial to amplify those voices, champion diversity and challenge the industry to do better for the benefit of all.
The tireless founder of Aspiring Solicitors, Chris White, and his team have created thousands of legal opportunities for excellent students from underrepresented groups. Recognising that challenges continue post-qualification, Aspiring Solicitors has launched an Alumni Network this year, allowing members continued access to a supportive network of peers and industry leaders offering insights and advice on how to succeed as a diverse junior lawyer.
Laser-focused on breaking down barriers to entry, Aspiring Solicitors has developed strategic partnerships with educational institutions (including merit-based scholarships) as well as in-house teams and the law firms whose laudable initiatives are showcased in this directory. I commend these firms and challenge them to go a step further by ensuring that the reality for diverse individuals (from entry to all levels within their organisations) matches their stated commitments.
Senior Advisory Board Member, Aspiring Solicitors Senior Employment Counsel, BGC Partners