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Law firms join forces to boost prospects for Black students

In a ground-breaking initiative, 21 law firms have collaborated to fund training in over 60 schools across England and Scotland that aims to combat unconscious bias and the impact this has on Black students. 


The initiative is a partnership between cross-firm collective Legal CORE, which aims to tackle ethnic minority underrepresentation in the legal sector, and diversity specialists Rare. It will enable teachers, school staff and governors to access the Hemisphere Education training programme over a three-year period.


Created by Rare, Hemisphere Education uses data, research and real-life examples from students to provide users with a toolkit to understand, safeguard and enhance the prospects of Black children and young people in nurseries and primary and secondary schools. The training has been developed and based on extensive research and evidence of bias in UK schools and the effect this bias has on outcomes for Black children.


The programme will be rolled out to schools taking part in the initiative from January 2024. This announcement comes at the two-year anniversary of Legal CORE, established to jointly tackle the challenges law firms face in increasing ethnic minority retention and progression in the sector. The collective now has over 40 members.


Uzma Hamid-Dizier, Steering Group Co-Chair, Legal CORE and Director of Responsible Business at Slaughter and May explains: “Many of our member firms already support local schools to provide meaningful employability and careers opportunities for students. Through this collaboration, we hope to help tackle inequality where it begins, and address the fact that our education system adds less value for Black children than any other ethnic group. This is a long-term and measurable intervention that will benefit thousands of children and help build a diverse future talent pipeline for the legal sector.” 

Marisa Leaf, Hemisphere Education Founder, Rare comments: “This training is a first for the education sector, and it works: 85% of teachers say Hemisphere has helped them understand Black children’s school experience better, and 90% commit to changing their practice. Our partnership with Legal CORE demonstrates the dedication of these firms to create an impact on race beyond their own workforce. I hope that other employers will be inspired to do the same.”

Michael McKenzie, Headteacher, Alexandra Park School says: “The training is impactful because it is relevant to what we do as educators and gives rise to a truly reflective individual response raising awareness of unconscious bias and initiating specific action to counter it. This collaboration will positively impact on both student outcomes and staff through setting a precedent for successful educational practices that prioritise diversity, equality, and inclusion.”

Louise Zekaria, Legal CORE Member Representative and Director of Inclusion and CSR at Macfarlanes: “In its scale and its focus, this is a first-of-its-kind outreach collaboration between law firms. The initiative is designed to support Black children during key formative years by helping them to have a more positive school experience. Law firms across the board want to expand their talent pipelines by ensuring equal access and opportunity. This collaboration will amplify the work of each individual law firm involved.”


Firms funding the Hemisphere Education initiative:
Allen & Overy, Ashurst, Baker McKenzie, Bird & Bird, Clifford Chance, Farrer & Co, Fladgate, Freshfields, Goodwin, Gowling WLG, Herbert Smith Freehills, Linklaters, Macfarlanes LLP, Norton Rose Fulbright, Osborne Clarke, Pinsent Masons, Sharpe Pritchard, Slaughter and May, Stephenson Harwood, Reed Smith and Travers Smith.


About Legal CORE
Established in 2021, Legal CORE (Collaboration on Race and Ethnicity) is a leadership-led, cross-firm collective aimed at tackling the underrepresentation of ethnic minority groups in the UK legal sector. The eight founding firms – Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields, Herbert Smith Freehills, Linklaters, Macfarlanes, Norton Rose Fulbright and Slaughter and May – came together to promote and amplify diversity and inclusion in the sector and jointly tackle the challenges they face in increasing representation.


The focus of the collective is to substantively increase the representation of ethnic minority individuals in private practice. By working collectively to drive action Legal CORE aims to have a more substantial and sustainable impact than by acting as individual firms.


About Rare 

Rare is a multi-award-winning diversity company. We do two things. One: we connect exceptional people from diverse backgrounds with world class careers in top organisations. Two: we provide cutting-edge data services that help our clients make better decisions.


Hemisphere Education is our digital anti-bias training for schools, grounded in extensive original research and evidence of bias in UK schools. Developed with experts in the fields of neuroscience, psychology and sociology, it distils our 18 years’ expertise, ten original research reports and hundreds of thousands of data points into easily digested insights on bias in education to improve outcomes for children nationwide. 

Legal CORE Think Tank 

We held our first Think Tank earlier this year. Organised by members of our Legal CORE (Collaboration on Race and Ethnicity) steering group, this took the form of a half-day ‘hackathon’-style event that brought together individuals from across a number of firms in the legal sector to answer the challenge question: “How can law firms improve the retention of ethnic minorities within their respective firms and across the legal sector?”.


The aim was to identify factors that cause racial and ethnic minorities to leave law firms, and for participants to provide initial thoughts on actions and programmes we could develop and ultimately implement in our firms. We also hoped to create a forum for sharing experiences and exchanging ideas amongst those who work within the sector.


By sharing the outcomes of the Think Tank, we can reflect on the current culture of our firms and the experiences of those from racial and ethnic minorities. In addition, it enables us – and hopefully others – to review current programmes, practices and processes, and identify where we can do better.


We recognise the challenges in creating a culture that is truly inclusive for underrepresented individuals, and the need for change. We hope this is the first in a series of Think Tanks encouraging open conversations – and to ultimately translate dialogue into actionable suggestions that drive progress.


To read the full report, click here. 

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