Law Firm’s New Initiative With University of Wolverhampton Believed To Be Industry First
In a bid to ensure their future leaders are more diverse, national law firm Irwin Mitchell has launched an inclusive development programme for employees, believed to be the first of its kind within the UK legal industry.
The leadership programme, developed in partnership with business psychology experts Delta Alpha Psi and the Wolverhampton Business School, is unique because it takes into account that more than one diverse characteristic will impact a candidate’s ability to progress into leadership roles; a concept known as ‘intersectionality’.
The programme will see 20 successful applicants from the firm’s 13 UK offices take part in a series of one-to-one coaching sessions and group workshops with the experts over a four month period, which began in May. The programme will help candidates who feel they are underrepresented within the legal sector or wider society develop confidence and self-awareness as authentic leaders. This might be due to one or more diverse characteristics, such as their age, gender identity or expression, disability, upbringing, race, religion, or sexual orientation.
In between these formal sessions colleagues will reflect on and start applying some of the knowledge and insight from the course and begin to embed these learnings on the job to encourage their professional development.
The impact of the session will be evaluated by specialists from Wolverhampton Business School who, at the end of the pilot, will provide independent insight and analysis into its effectiveness and impact. Those who have been involved in the pilot scheme will then have the opportunity to become mentors for the new intake of applicants in 2020.
To further ensure the project’s success the firm will continue to encourage colleagues to take part in unconscious bias training, which they launched in 2018 to help the firm become more inclusive. They will also be focusing on enhancing the leadership capability throughout the business as part of their transformational change programme.
Irwin Mitchell has already seen some steps in the right direction in terms of its diversity and inclusion efforts. As a long term supporter of the LGBT charity Stonewall the firm once again made the top 150 companies in the Workplace Equality Index in 2019 and is in the top 25 law firms in the index. Female partners make up 44% of the business and the firm’s gender pay gap is also one of the lowest in the industry. Over 20% of the firm now officially works flexibly thanks to an inclusion and wellbeing drive in recent years. Irwin Mitchell also paved the way for the UK legal industry by introducing a transgender policy in 2017 followed by a dress for your day policy in 2018 to help colleagues express their identities better within their offices.
Expert OpinionWhile we are proud of our successes when it comes to diversity and inclusion, we also recognise that there is more work to be done.
We hope that this programme will empower our participants to achieve their potential as authentic leaders who are supported to embrace and celebrate what makes them unique. The line managers of participants will also receive training and the wider colleague population will continue to be encouraged to get involved with our allies and inclusion initiatives to ensure this is a real collaborative effort.
Stuart Henderson - Partner