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Inaugural Chambers Diversity Summit in Association with Eversheds Discusses Range of Diversity Issues in the Legal Profession

  • Brid Horan, former Deputy CEO at ESB, Pamela O’Neill, Partner, Eversheds, and Claire Vaughan, Legal Counsel at Sodexo among the speakers, focusing on gender bias and the business case for diversity
  • Guest speakers Tunde Okewale and Karen Jackson discussed cultural and disability bias in the UK legal profession
  • 94% of respondents to an iReach survey among the attendees agree that diversity is an important issue among the legal profession but the majority (63%) were not aware targets for diversity at senior management or board level. 

Chambers Diversity joined with Eversheds to host the inaugural Chambers Diversity Summit, bringing together almost 100 legal professionals from Ireland and internationally to discuss diversity in the legal profession.  The Chambers Guide is the highly regarded ‘go to’ reference guide for legal professionals, operating in 185 jurisdictions worldwide. 

A survey among the Diversity Summit delegates, mostly in house legal counsel from large companies in Ireland, UK and Europe, showed 94% agree that diversity is an important issue among the profession.  Encouragingly, 65% said their organisations had strong diversity policies in place, however 64% were not aware of diversity targets being in placed for at senior management and board level, and only half of said there was a diverse management team in place in their organisation.  44% of respondents were in favour of quotas, but 56% were either against or unsure. 

Arguing the case for more diversity in all its guises, Matthew Flood, Global General Counsel at Igneous, and founder of the LGBT at his previous employer, Balfour Beatty in the UK, pointed to international research which shows that more diversity strengthens the bottom line for businesses, citing research from Catalyst which states that companies with three or more women board directors achieve return on equity 45% higher than the average company, and that more gender diverse companies exceed operating results (EBIT) by an average of 56% than those delivered by companies with no women on their senior management teams. Claire Vaughan also stated that companies with diverse executive boards enjoy significantly higher earnings and returns on equity, quoting Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters and McKinsey analysis.

Pamela O’Neill, Partner, Eversheds and leader of the Eversheds Women’s Leadership Initiative, which focuses on career deployment and progression, said “We are delighted to partner with Chambers Diversity on this exciting initiative.  We are already focusing on the gender issue at our firm, and it is interesting to hear the views expressed today on the gender issue and also from some leading voices representing the wider diversity interests.  A significant amount of the international research on diversity in the workplace issues shows more diversity at senior management and board level is better for business.  I will be sharing the learnings from today’s Summit with my colleagues as we are working hard to promote diversity within our own firm.  I believe today’s discussion was enlightening and informing and I hope all of our delegates will be able to take the learnings away and apply them in their own workplaces.”

Tunde Okewale, founder of Urban Lawyers in the UK, spoke about the lack of cultural diversity in the legal profession in the UK.  Tunde Okewale grew up in a council estate in Hackney, East London and was the first person in his family to attend university and obtain a degree. Tunde Okewale was recently named as Diversity Champion at UK Diversity Legal Awards 2014 and has also been published in GQ magazine as one of the most influential men under 40 in the UK. 

Speaking about ‘cognitive diversity’, Tunde Okewale said “There is a growing movement in the legal profession to create a more diverse workforce. This has led to a large number of diversity projects and access schemes designed to ensure that every member of society knows that law is a possible career option. One of biggest hurdles to achieving truly diverse and inclusive workplaces has been getting people to realise that creating a diverse legal profession is, in effect, all about change. This is inherently difficult to grasp particularly in a profession that in the UK has been built on tradition and custom.  My view, which is shared by many academics, commentators and practitioners is that social economics, especially class, has been the biggest barrier to producing a diverse legal industry. Social economics and class encapsulates a number of factors including cultural, racial and religious characteristics. The impact of a diverse profession has had a ripple effect and its effect on every aspect of the justice system must not be lost.”

Karen Jackson, founder of didlaw, a UK law firm that specialises in disability and discrimination issues, said “Part of the problem may be that in a male dominated, city firm culture that exists in the UK, situations like disability and mental health, where it is necessary and essential to have open and clear communication about this sensitive subject, are neglected.  There is this perception that mental health is second class compared to physical health.”

Pictured above is: Claire Vaughan, Brid Horan, Tunde Okewale, Pamela O'Neill, Matthew Flood, Aine Maguire and Dee Sekar

Picture above is: Tunde Okewale, Claire Vaughan, Pamela O'Neill and Brid Horan

Pictured above is: Alan Murphy, Managing Partner of Eversheds Ireland and Chairman of Eversheds International

For more information contact:

Clare O'Neill
Marketing Director
+353 1 6644905


This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full terms and conditions on our website.

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