Diversity And Eversheds

Wednesday, March 1, 2006 - 01:00

At Eversheds we are used to diversity and virtually live it and practice it
every day. We are one of the largest law firms in the world (with more than
2,000 lawyers and more than 4,500 in staff overall). We have 28 offices
worldwide, including offices in Doha (Qatar) and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia).

Our employment demographics, our employment policies and our client base all
reflect our commitment to diversity in all its forms.

The Big Picture

Most of our lawyers and most of our non-lawyer employees are active in our
various offices in Europe, which extend from Dublin to Sofia, in the West and
East, to Stockholm and Rome, in the North and South. The modern Europe in which
we operate is itself an example of diversity. The European Union has 20 official
languages. Seven out of 25 of the current EU Commissioners are women, from a
broad variety of countries, and with responsibilities in some of the most
important areas of EU policy and legislation, including external relations,
agriculture, the budget and financing programming, and business competition.

More tellingly, the demographics of Europe as a whole are far more diverse
than ever before. New laws, new educational opportunities and new attitudes have
translated into a modern Europe in which, for example, companies and their
employees operate across the entire continent. Nevertheless, it is still true
that each country does tend to retain much of its cultural diversity, including
different ways of doing business.

Demographics Of The Firm

Within this setting, our own demographics are representative of the new
diverse face of Europe. It may first be mentioned that, of course, we keep track
of our own diversity, that is, we keep track of the numbers, so that we can
better understand and improve our diversity. A few such statistics, which may be
taken as representative of our Firm as a whole are offered here:

As at 31 January 2006, we took a statistical snapshot of our non-lawyer
personnel (about 2,200 people). In terms of gender, we are doing rather better
than the European Commissioners! There is about a 55 (female)-45 (male) split in
our non-lawyer employees, as to gender and this remains true, regardless of
ethnic origin. This 55-45 split represents quite a change from the same time a
year before, where the breakdown of these numbers in our Firm was about 50-50.

As for the overall question of assessing our employment demographics on the
basis of ethnic origin, it is important to recall that certain cities and
regions within Europe have quite differing demographics within the general
population. For instance, the city of Birmingham, England, has a large
percentage of its inhabitants who are of Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi
origin, far more, percentage-wise than, say, Barcelona in Spain or Munich in
Germany. We, therefore, keep track of the numbers with this in mind. Consistent
with the general local population, our figures for Birmingham track the local
population ethnicity demographics whereas, in our other offices, we find that
they track the varying local statistics, too.

Office by office, we find pretty much of the same distribution as to
ethnicity as a whole and as to age and gender groups.

When we focus on our lawyers, by gender, we find that the breakdown is about
equal, but with women outnumbering men by about 8 percentile points in the age
group 26-30 years old, reflecting a trend in the direction of more and more
women joining and advancing in the profession.

Our Equality And Diversity Policy

We are committed to providing outstanding community and client service by
maintaining the highest standards of professional excellence. To meet this
objective, we have a written Equality and Diversity Policy, committing us to
supporting the principle of equal opportunities for all. This is an integral
part of our Employee Manual. We are thereby committed to recruiting, training
and promoting the best person for the job, regardless of gender, marital status,
color, race, nationality, ethnic origin, disability, religion, sexual
orientation or parental responsibilities. We are also committed to creating a
working environment which supports our corporate "Vision and Values" and which
is free of any form of discrimination, harassment or bullying and within which
all individuals are treated with respect, fairness and courtesy.

This Policy specifically covers the following matters:


  • recruitment, selection, learning and development and promotion;

  • terms and conditions of employment/terms of engagement;

  • disability;

  • discrimination, victimisation and harassment;

  • our collective responsibility for effectiveness of the Policy;

  • complaints and disciplinary procedures;

  • monitoring.
  • We also have a separate written detailed Policy regarding religious diversity
    in which, among other things, we raise awareness within the Firm regarding some
    of the world's different religions: Bahai, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism,
    Islam, Judaism, Rastafarianism, Sikhism. For each, our Policy guidelines include
    explanations about key terminology, diet and dress codes, festivals and holy
    days, marriage, raising of children and burial customs.

    Outlook For The Future

    Our law firm has been expanding rapidly and new offices have joined recently
    in Ireland and in Sweden. The future will bring more change and more diversity
    for us. Among other things that we will be watching for as the future unfolds.


  • We work regularly in many languages and cultures and it is standard
    cross-cultural procedure for Eversheds lawyers (especially our younger lawyers)
    to spend several months working in other Eversheds offices (internal
    secondments) and at our clients' offices (external secondments). This program,
    however, is not limited to lawyers. There are many examples of non-lawyers
    requesting or being asked to take on such diversity of experience assignments.

  • We have had considerable success with our firm-wide recruitment
    policy entitled "Career Pathways," in which we offer employees the means to
    ensure that they have access to our support and advice to help them achieve
    their personal career and life style aims.

  • We have consistently ranked as one of the top UK employers ("Best
    Place to Work"). Commitment to diversity, both in word and in deed, is an
    important criterion for this status.

  • We have been approached just this month to work on a special UK
    government initiative which aims to promote the total eradication of all slavery
    in the world in 2007, that is slavery "per se," as well as oppression, bias and
    discrimination in all illegal or immoral forms and disguises.
  • We will soon be publishing our diversity statistics on our website. We are
    proud of them but will also welcome suggestions for change and further
    improvement.

    Conclusion

    We are firmly committed to the fact that diversity is not merely the right
    thing to do but is also good business. It helps us to attract the best people,
    based upon merit and ability, to help them grow with the skills they already
    have and to keep them with us, and so to build and improve the Firm overall over
    the coming years.

    Paul Smith is a Partner in Eversheds LLP and is head of
    the firm's health, safety and environment group, the largest in the UK. Paul has
    particular expertise in crisis management and has acted for a number of major
    chemical companies following major incidents at their facilities. He is the
    author of numerous publications on environmental law and liability, especially
    in a pan-European context. Paul may be reached at
    44-20-7919-4500.

    Please email the author at paulsmith@eversheds.com with questions about this
    article.