Diversity Staff and the Dynamics of Diversity Policy-Making in Large Law Firms

Legal Ethics 13 (2):141-163 (2010)

A number of high-profile campaigns relating to diversity have focussed on the large law firm sector since the mid-2000s. Reflecting on what has been called the 'diversity approach' to equality management, they have emphasised voluntary action based on business case reasoning. This paper considers the impact of these campaigns in practice, focusing on the dynamics of diversity policy-making within firms. Drawing upon empirical work conducted in large law firms, it explores the perspective of newly appointed diversity staff who have day to day responsibility for diversity policies in the majority of large law firms. It discusses research findings that show while certain policies were being implemented across the large law firm sector, much turns on the position of diversity staff within firms and their ability to conduct in-house negotiations effectively, to compromise and downplay the potential for disruption to the status quo. On the basis of this research I consider the ongoing debates about holding law firms to account with respect to the diversity of their workforce. While the strategy of pressuring firms to disclose 'diversity data' is gathering pace, the paper recommends an open discussion about the goals of diversity policy-making as a pre-condition of greater accountability
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DOI 10.5235/146072810793817204
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