A call for in-house legal teams to use their purchasing power to demand that panel firms 'demonstrably invest in the recruitment, retention and promotion of black lawyers' goes out to the legal profession today. 

The idea - which follows similar initiatives aimed at improving the representation of women - is among a set of actions proposed by the Black Solicitors Network to tackle what it calls 'pervasive racial disparities and inequalities' relating to lawyers of African or African/Caribbean heritage.

The network, formed in 1995, calls on law firms and other legal services providers (including in-house legal teams) to 'take up the mantle of change'.

Action points include: 

  • Implementing systems and processes to monitor racial diversity through the employee life-cycle from recruitment to promotion, attrition (for example by conducting exit interviews) and remuneration. 
  • Policies to combat attrition levels as black lawyers rise up the hierarchy. These could include access to ‘stretch’ and high-profile assignments, client opportunities, secondments and mentoring/career coaching programmes.
  • Introducing mandatory anti-bias, anti-racism and inclusion training for all staff.

The letter concludes: 'We believe this is a moment of opportunity to create sustainable and meaningful change for our profession. The journey towards institutional change is not an easy one - it starts with the will to want to see change and then being that change.'