ADVANCING RACIAL EQUALITY THROUGH PRO BONO WORK AND FIRM INITIATIVES
In December 2019, I took part in the Herbert Smith Freehills vacation scheme. During the scheme there were several talks regarding the various practice groups at the firm, and one group that stood out to me was the HSF Impact group, a group that provides pro bono advice to social enterprises and impact investors on global issues like climate change, homelessness and poverty. Expressing my interest in this group and the firm’s wider pro bono work meant I was able to participate in client calls during my vacation scheme; one of which involved giving advice to a leading global investment business on how to establish and grow an in-house pro bono programme. It was amazing to see pro bono work being regarded as a key part of our role as lawyers at the firm.
As a black woman in the legal profession, I want to tackle racial and gender-based inequities that create barriers for entry into work. My interest in pro bono work in this area has been consistently encouraged by the firm. I was able to participate in the incorporation of an anti-racism charity, which focuses on engendering black equity in the UK, and, given the opportunity to attend calls with the client, assist with drafting the charity's constitution and write client-facing notes on various procedural steps. The charity has recently been successfully registered, which has been a highlight of my career so far, and being part of the team that worked on this gives me such joy.
During my second seat, I facilitated a group discussion on race, diversity and inclusivity, creating a safe space for open dialogue between various members of the team, from Partners to support staff. Together we dissected complex topics like microagressions and discrimination. It was great to share and hear personal experiences, while also encouraging each other to challenge the inherent racism and unconscious biases embedded in our minds. There’s no doubt that the first step to tackling these social issues is by talking about them – and at Herbert Smith Freehills, I feel empowered to do so.
Ultimately, my aim is to create a more diverse legal profession, no matter how small an impact I make. I also want to open the door to law for underrepresented people. I hope to continue working with the Graduate Recruitment team to reach out to students and, in particular, black students who aspire to be lawyers at a top tier firm such as Herbert Smith Freehills.