Strong relationships with colleagues, and with clients, are at the heart of everything we do. It’s integral to our approach, what we call having an unlimited partnership with people. An unlimited approach to developing personal and collaborative relationships is what makes us different. Surveys amongst our team and our clients endorse this. It is a common thread, at the heart of our vision, our business plan and our values.
We know we have lots to do to ‘live’ this vision fully. We have hardwired inclusion and diversity into our business strategy as a result. An unlimited approach to personal relationships for us means having both a truly inclusive culture and diverse teams, in which everyone is equipped to perform at their best. In other words, it is fundamental to our success, to our team’s success and to our client’s success. That’s why we take it personally.
Inclusion and Diversity
The moral and business case for I&D has firmly taken root in all businesses, particularly the legal profession. The benefits are well-documented, including innovation, productivity, profitability, better decision-making, and happier people.
Mythily Katsaris, Partner
Inclusivity - our focus
We know that to achieve our inclusion and diversity objectives we need to focus on a number of areas:
Developing a diverse leadership - we have a mix of different ethnicity and genders on our leadership groups. We are working hard to improve the gender balance of our partner team and in the last 18 months 4 out of 9 people joining the partnership were women.
Attracting a diverse work force. This means adopting a properly personal approach when connecting with those interested in joining our team including: ensuring fairness in our processes; working with those, like recruiters, who help us in this; a commitment that you will always meet male and female talent in our recruitment interviews; ensuring that our Senior Partner meets every Partner interested in joining us at some point in the recruitment process.
Engaging with everyone in our team to ensure they are heard, supported and understood. Encourage everyone to develop their own voice in shaping our culture, their future and our service to clients. That might be working flexibly or that might be a specific career programme - everyone needs different things at different times.
Helping all our people in all roles to achieve their full potential. We provide training, coaching, internal mentors and buddies, whatever works for each individual and their own personal development path.
For everyone including our clients we are striving to:
Ensure that contact with us, including for example at events we organise, is always inclusive and appropriate for all, all preferences will be catered for.
Endeavour to ensure our teams working on different client matters reflect the right balance of gender and ethnicity.
Develop and support our client’s own inclusivity and diversity objectives by running industry specific workshops and seminars together.
Have regular open conversations with clients about progress around inclusion and diversity.
Our progress in numbers
Taking all this personally means measuring progress. If it can’t be measured it can’t be managed. We invite colleagues and candidates alike to share their diversity data so that our approach to inclusion and diversity is informed and proactive. We report on our gender pay gap despite being an SME and are preparing to commence ethnicity pay gap reporting.
Inclusion and Diversity
As the new Senior Partner of the firm I am acutely aware that our vision and values are built around the word personal. We are a people business dependent on brilliant client relationships. Inclusion and diversity objectives are therefore not ‘soft’ business aspirations, they are fundamental to our success.
Sunil Sheth, Senior Partner
Our gender group works to improve the recruitment, retention, and development of our female talent to ensure that women at Fladgate thrive.
As signatories to the Women in the Law pledge, we’re playing our part in transforming the business of law by improving gender balance at all levels of our firm. Events and seminars afford space for women to share their stories and successes and help them gain access to industries where they’re under-represented.
Our gender group also works with our menopause group, which involves both female and male colleagues in learning and supporting colleagues affected by the menopause.
Our ‘Male Champions for Change’ programme provides an opportunity for male colleagues to confront gender norms, hold other men at the firm accountable and encourage them to join in the conversation. The programme works to give all our colleagues equal opportunities to progress in their careers, develop new skills, and be exposed to clients and leadership opportunities.
We have partnered up with Arrowpoint Advisory to host a six-month Women in Private Equity programme (as designed by The Executive Coaching Consultancy). This is aimed at helping participants increase their confidence and motivation in order to accelerate their progress in the private equity and venture capital industry - all whilst creating a network with other professional women in the industry.
Our work seeks to uphold the ethics and principles of the race equality legislation and engaging with our black and minority ethnic team members. There is an on-going push to improve our ethnicity profile across the firm.The working group, Unify, works to celebrate Fladgate’s diversity of race, religion and ethnicity. Their initial actions include signing Fladgate up to Race Equality Week and instituting a calendar to celebrate cultural and religious events from around the world. Recently, we adopted the Halo Code - championing the rights of colleagues to wear Afro-textured hair with pride and pledging to fight hair discrimination.
Our ideas in action
This is an ongoing pursuit with lots still to achieve, and so we ask everyone to contribute. Our strategy is modelled around engagement. We seek to understand how people feel, and look for risk in these discussions and not comfort. We reflect on what behaviours, biases and mind-sets need to change, and adapt our training programmes for inclusive behaviour and unconscious bias accordingly.
Volunteers across the firm come together to make up our Inclusion and Diversity task force. Partner Mythily Katsaris leads the team to work on our Inclusion & Diversity Action Plan, which she takes to Fladgate’s Board on a monthly basis.
Teams across the firm, working as part of both strategic initiatives as well as informal networks, collaborate to shape our culture from the ground up. Here are some of their ideas in action:
Mental Health and Wellbeing network
This network is promoting working practices that support mental health and wellbeing and making space for safe and open conversations. It’s reviewing and improving the firm’s wellbeing programme, which covers Mental Health, Physical Health, Financial Health, and Social & CSR.
This year, we introduced Mental Health First Aiders to support any staff experiencing mental ill-health or distress. Fladgate employees also benefit from a Virtual GP service, virtual personal training sessions three times a week (with one session for parents and children), YuLife (a life insurance company that rewards staff for healthy lifestyles), and yoga sessions. We offer online mortgage advice clinics and are about to launch a financial fitness webinar series.
We hold interactive webinars on maintaining energy and building resilience throughout lockdown. We hosted a mental health awareness panel discussion and event in January 2020 to help raise awareness, promote understanding and encourage a culture of positive mental wellbeing at Fladgate.
Listening to and engaging with team members from different socio economic backgrounds is just as important when it comes to building an inclusive culture. The focus is on ensuring everyone feels comfortable and can work well in Fladgate.
We’re also playing our part to widen the doors to the legal profession with placements and partnerships that offer school and university students an opportunity to experience our environment and develop lasting skills, wherever they take their career.
In 2020, we kicked off our Vacation Scheme to help university candidates see our ethos in practice before they accept a training contract. As the scheme grows, we’re actively working to diversify our pool of candidates by removing potential for unconscious bias and taking into consideration issues of social mobility in application assessment. Our staff, from partners to trainee solicitors, have mentored students from universities such as De Montfort University and the University of Law. We’re also partnered with Co-operation Ireland and the University of West London to offer students placements at our offices.
As part of the PRIME social inclusion initiative, we invite disadvantaged school-age students to our offices to find out about careers in law, experience mentoring and our culture first-hand, and apply for more extensive work experience at Fladgate. We also select five students to return for a week-long placement in the summer, for skills and employability exercises and the chance to attend court with our lawyers.
Without Prejudice for our LGBTQ+ community and allies
Everyone in the firm is encouraged to get involved with this group, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The group is building a safe space for LGBTQ+ staff and cultivating understanding amongst all colleagues with talks and LGBTQ+ history month.
The group has improved Fladgate’s working practices and nurtures our LGBTQ+ talent through mentoring, networking, professional advice, and career progression support.
This group reviews our working practices, processes, and policies to identify improvements. They’re building a more inclusive culture with cross-departmental social events, speakers, a film club, and seminars on topics like neurodiversity and disabilities. We’re especially proud of their collaboration with the charity Whizz-Kidz, helping young people with physical disabilities into the world of work. So far, we’ve hosted four students for a weeks’ work experience.
“I can honestly say this work experience placement was one of the best ones I have attended so far! I was given vital tips for both training and job applications for the future, went on a tour in the Courts of Justice, I was given everyday tasks a solicitor would usually deal with and had a great trainee. Thank you for the experience and allowing me to meet such great people.”
Year Participant, Whizz-Kidz programme
Working parents group
When Fladgate’s parents were faced with closure of schools and childcare under lockdown, we adapted our working arrangements and formed this group to ensure that flexibility for Fladgate’s parents is built into our long term approach. We have adapted our working arrangements to make space for childcare, and meanwhile we’ve hosted interactive webinars to help parents and children cultivate resilience throughout lockdown. Support, information, and resources for parents in corporate roles are available thanks to our membership of the City Parents network.
This group was formed by colleagues to put an informal support network together for those who have experienced loneliness on account of the physical distancing, shielding, and lockdown measures introduced in the UK on account of the pandemic.