Current Affairs

Stonewall questions world’s largest law firm

Ian Dunt September 4, 2007
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Gay rights group Stonewall has asked to meet representatives of the world’s largest law firm, Clifford Chance, following a sexual discrimination case brought against them by a former partner.

The sexual orientation claim by former competition partner Michael Bryceland was the first of its kind against a UK law firm, but it was settled in April for an undisclosed amount.

The firm has failed, however, to respond to Stonewall’s request for a meeting.

The case, revealed two weeks ago, comes as an embarrassment to the firm following their commendation in Stonewall’s list of ‘Diversity Champions’ in 2006.

The diversity kitemark means the firm promises to ensure benefits to same-sex couples and adopt a zero-tolerance approach to homophobia in the workplace.

Key clients have indicated they are standing by the firm, however.

Arpita Dutt, specialist discrimination partner from Russell Jones Walker told the behaviour of partners influenced the culture of the whole firm.

“Holding and retaining a diversity kitemark requires leadership commitment and in law firms that must emanate from the partnership.

“It is important that issues which manifest in the partnership are not magnified at other levels in the firm, creating a culture whereby individuals feel they have to put up or shut up and not complain about discrimination.

“Unfortunately, in our experience, this remains the culture which exists in many law firms.”

She continued: “Championing diversity requires more than an HR department rolling out policies.

“Most litigation we conduct on behalf of employees claiming sexual orientation discrimination is against policy rich, implementation poor employers.”

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