Experience: a year as chair of Liverpool Law Society EDI Committee

Published:

Ask anyone working in a role related to diversity, equality and social inclusion what motivates them and you’ll hear any number of good reasons. Our passions, life experiences and a conviction that we can make a difference in creating a better, more diverse and socially inclusive society are all contributory factors. And so it is with me.

In January 2021 I accepted the position of chair of Liverpool Law Society’s Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) committee, a role I was delighted - though slightly nervous - to take on. 

Liverpool Law Society’s EDI committee was set up formally in February 2020, so it is relatively new. Although I’m of Asian heritage, I was born and brought up in England and have never thought that being Asian has affected my legal career. Yes, I’ve had my fair share of unsuccessful job applications, but I feel fortunate that my heritage has had no negative bearing my career. It’s obviously difficult to know for sure and I’m aware that my experience may not be representative of others.

 

Like many others, the BLM movement propelled me to seek active change

I was prompted to join the EDI Committee by the sheer force of the Black Lives Matters movement following the tragic death in May 2020 of George Floyd. What struck me about the BLM movement was the sheer extent and volume of the everyday stories of discrimination.

I felt compelled then to do something and joined the committee to help achieve active change. In those first few months, it was encouraging to hear from colleagues that EDI is an issue lots of law firms are actively looking at – we have a common agenda and a desire to promote change. So I felt incredibly privileged to be invited to become EDI chair in December 2020.

My first practical consideration was where to start? As a new committee, I had no ‘social calendar’ or past ideas from which to work. But the more I looked into EDI the more articles I saw; whether focused on race discrimination, gender, disability discrimination or LGBTQ+ issues, there was always something in the news. My challenge, it seemed, would be deciding what to concentrate on first.

 

There’s so much we can do but I’m taking it step by step

EDI is a hugely wide-ranging topic with a number of characteristics that touch so many areas of everyday life that I was initially overwhelmed. I began by contacting the EDI chairs of other law societies around the country to see what they were doing and learn from that.

Many of them already had well-established EDI committees that had often started with a focus on one characteristic and grown as other colleagues got on board.  The advice I got from the other EDI chairs was invaluable and gave me an idea to start on an event that encouraged inclusion.

 

As a legal profession we want to move forward together on EDI

Our first task has been to produce a HR best practice recruitment guide to support recruitment and HR processes in our smaller law firm members. Hill Dickinson, the international law firm I work for, and other larger law firms in the region, have given their time and shared top tips for recruitment so that we can all move forward together towards achieving a more diverse and inclusive workforce within the legal profession.

In addition, we are planning an event in May on ‘How to be an Ally in the Legal Workplace’. We’re expecting the event to attract a wide audience, as EDI is so much more than an issue for people with protected characteristics, it’s something we should all be a part of and we want to encourage relevant conversations. So the event is focused on showing how everyone can help bring about change in a positive way.    

Finally, I very much hope that, in being appointed chair of the EDI committee, I can act as a role model to the new generation of lawyers and students considering entering the law. I want them to know that, whatever your background, ethnicity or gender, the profession I am proud to work in is open and welcoming to all.

 

By Nina Sahu, EDI chair, Liverpool Law Society, and health litigation lawyer, Hill Dickinson