The InterLaw Diversity Forum was established in 2008 by founder & co-chair Daniel Winterfeldt, originally as an inter-organisational forum for all personnel in the legal sector (for both lawyers, including private practice and in-house counsel, as well as non-lawyers). Its overall objective was to encourage LGBT diversity and inclusion in the legal sector. Since its founding the InterLaw Diversity Forum has expanded its scope beyond LGBT to encompass all strands of diversity and inclusion, with a particular focus on cultural change in the workplace and ‘multiple identities’.
The InterLaw Diversity Forum was created in response to a need for an organisation to address LGBT issues in the London legal sector. Until 2008 no London law firm had entered the Stonewall Work Equality Index’s (“WEI”) Top 100 Employers for LGB Employees, which placed the legal sector far behind its City peers. The WEI is the definitive national benchmarking exercise showcasing Britain’s top employers for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff. In addition, top clients of City law firms had asked the London legal community to address LGBT issues and to create an environment where employees could reach their full potential irrespective of sexual orientation.
Since the launch of the InterLaw Diversity Forum, the legal sector’s performance in Stonewall’s WEI has dramatically improved: In 2007 there were no law firms represented in the Top 100 Employers, and the legal sector ranked second from the bottom; In 2017 there were 14 law firms recognized in the Top 100 Employers, and the legal sector was the top-ranking sector overall. Stonewall has stated: “A major part of the movement forward for the [legal] sector has been the InterLaw Diversity Forum. It helped provide a sector-specific focus.” Our successful track record has encouraged us to expand beyond LGBT and to advance equality in the legal profession as a whole.
The InterLaw Diversity Forum currently has more than 3,000 members from over 70 law firms and 45 corporates and financial institutions. In addition to its monthly LGBT and BAME meetings, the InterLaw Diversity Forum engages in charitable work, manages its Apollo Project with the Financial Times, conducts research into the legal profession, and runs its Purple Reign project.
The InterLaw Diversity Forum is currently co-chaired by:
Daniel Winterfeldt, Partner, US Securities & Global Capital Markets and Senior Diversity Consultant, Reed Smith;
Lesley Wan, Corporate Real Estate Counsel, Lloyds Banking Group
Sheldon Mills, Senior Director of Mergers, the Competition and Markets Authority; and
Linda Whittle, Senior Associate, Fladgate.
LGBT Network and BAME Network
The InterLaw Diversity Forum has held monthly meetings for its LGBT Network since its launch in 2008. In late 2016 it started a BAME (Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic) Network, and commenced monthly meetings in early 2017. These monthly meetings serve to create a space for diverse individuals and allies to meet to share best practice, to network, and to provide support.
Charitable Support and the WINTER CARNIVAL
The InterLaw Diversity Forum also supports a wide range of charities through collaboration, promotion, and fund raising. It raises funds for various charities at its annual summer anniversary party and at its December holiday drinks. These charities include Stonewall, Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline, the Albert Kennedy Trust, the Terrence Higgins Trust, the Elton John AIDs Foundation, Mermaids, and many others.
The annual InterLaw Diversity Forum Winter Carnival is its largest charitable event. Now in its eighth year, the Winter Carnival is a black-tie gala which raises awareness of and funds for one growing charity. In its first six years the Winter Carnival raised over £330,000 for the Albert Kennedy Trust to support their vital work with homeless and at-risk LGBT youth, which also includes BAME youth. The Winter Carnival now supports the amazing work of the Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline, which provides help to some of the most vulnerable in our community. The Winter Carvival has been fortunate to have as past event hosts: Sir Ian McKellen, Sandi Toksvig, Duncan James, Shamim Sarif, and Tom Daley.
Research including the Career Progression Report
In 2010 the InterLaw Diversity Forum collaborated with the Law Society on the study The Career Experience of LGB Solicitors. (The report can found on the Law Society’s website here. It was published alongside reports on women and ethnic minority solicitors, collectively called The Barriers Reports.)
This was followed by the InterLaw Diversity Forum’s 2011 report Barriers to Application for Judicial Appointment: LGBT Experiences, which included a preface from the then Chairman of the Judicial Appointments Commission. (The report can be found on the Birkbeck School of Law website here.) This report was cited in the Report of the Advisory Panel on Judicial Diversity chaired by Baroness Julia Neuberger DBE, and was instrumental in the Judicial Appointments Commission’s decision to change its policies on LGBT applicants, which included initiating monitoring of sexual orientation.
In July 2012, the InterLaw Diversity Forum, with support from the Law Society and the Bar Council, surveyed almost 2,000 respondents from all strands of diversity and inclusion in the UK legal sector. From this data it published its ground-breaking report Career Progression in the Legal Sector, with a preface from Baroness Patricia Scotland PC QC. The report combined hard data with respondents’ perceptions of their own career progression, as well as their perception of the fairness and transparency of policies and practices in their workplaces. The goal of the report was to identify the barriers facing these diverse groups and to provide recommendations to address and ultimately solve these issues. (The full report is set out here.)
The InterLaw Diversity Forum is now collecting data to update its Career Progression Report for 2017 by assessing what progress has been made in the UK legal sector since the original report. At a later stage it will report on data collected in the United States and Europe. The updated report will aim to track progress, identify barriers, and determine the best ways to effect positive cultural change in the legal sector.
Purple Reign is an InterLaw Diversity Forum initiative which uses a multimedia platform of photographic portraits, text profiles, and film. Purple Reign celebrates the success of LGBT professionals and recognizes the support of powerful straight allies, with a goal of raising the self-esteem and career aspirations of LGBT youth, students and professionals, as well as reducing homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying by fostering increased understanding and empathy. Purple Reign captures the images and stories of inspiring role models drawn from the fields of law, business, activism, the arts, government, and sports. The subjects are photographed in front of a purple background to highlight their LGBT identity or support as an ally, which is situated in a greater panoramic setting representing their professions. Through their profiles, written by acclaimed writer, activist and Stonewall founding-member Lisa Power, we explore their multiple identities across all strands of diversity and inclusion and celebrate their status as role models and leaders in their fields.
For more information on Purple Reign, please visit here.
The Apollo Project: Architects of Meritocracy
The Apollo Project was conceived by Daniel Winterfeldt in 2014 and realised as a collaboration between the InterLaw Diversity Forum and the Financial Times. The Apollo Project is a cross-sector initiative for businesses and organisations of all sizes, which aims to provide practical tools to better embed more inclusive workplace practices and cultures. The Apollo Project runs a prestigious competition which seeks out and judges models of best practice from organisations that are driving cultural change, all with a goal of providing effective, practical solutions for other organisations looking for guidance in this area.
The Apollo Project was inspired by the recommendations of the InterLaw Diversity Forum’s Career Progression Report, which identified the need to effect cultural change in order to create more meritocratic workplaces. The project has had three successful runs, sponsored by organisations such as General Electric, Lloyds Banking Group, RBS, Walmart, CMS, and Reed Smith. Every year the Financial Times publishes a global supplement dedicated to the project (see here). Organisations with winning entries receive an Apollo Project: Architects of Meritocracy award from the InterLaw Diversity Forum and the Financial Times for their innovative work in instigating cultural change. All of the winning submissions are freely available on our website via “open source”, thus enabling other organisations to shape and inform their work on diversity and inclusion, talent management and organisational change.
For more information on The Apollo Project, please visit the website here.
The InterLaw Diversity Forum’s Apollo Project and Purple Reign were both shortlisted for the 2016 FT Innovative Lawyer Awards for “Innovation in People.”
The InterLaw Diversity Forum is honoured to have a prestigious and diverse range of patrons supporting our work towards equality in the legal sector and meritocratic workplaces:
Baroness Patricia Scotland PC QC, Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations
Helen Grant, Member of Parliament
Dr. Sandie Okoro, Senior Vice-President and General Counsel for the World Bank Group
Dame Fiona Woolf DBE, Partner, CMS Cameron McKenna, Alderman and Former Lord Mayor of the City of London
Dan Fitz, Group General Counsel and Company Secretary, BT
Carol Hui, Group General Counsel & Company Secretary, Heathrow Airport Holdings
Professor Trevor Williams, Chief Economist, Lloyds Banking Group
Catrin Griffiths, Editor, The Lawyer