What the large law firms say about racial equality
Over the past month, several large law firms have shown their support for race equality in the wake of the tragic events in the United States at the end of May.
In that sense, Charlie Jacobs, Linklaters' Senior Partner and Senior Champion for Race & Ethnicity, said in an article within Linklaters's website:
“We are a firm that prides itself on its values of respect, integrity and inclusion and it is essential that we call on those values. Silence is not an option. Inaction is a form of action. Our firm is proud to support you in this cause and we see that it is our collective responsibility to dismantle racism”.
Also, Jacobs mentioned a phrase by Nelson Mandela: "it is in [our] hands to create a better world for all who live in it”.
Baker Mckenzie’s Executive Committee published a press release entitled ‘We are not Neutral’.
“We have seen many tragic events unfold, like the recent killing of Mr. George Floyd in the US, with a mix of shock, sadness and disbelief. As a Firm, we are not neutral. Our values of dignity, caring and respect are unyielding, and we must hold ourselves and each other accountable for living up to these values. That means we are not, and cannot be, silent when we see injustice”, said the Committee. “As individuals, while we know it can be hard to find the words, each of us must demonstrate our support and respect by reaching out to listen and to acknowledge the anguish that our Black colleagues are experiencing. In this way, we can truly bring our culture of friendship to life at a time when it is most needed”.
U.S. law firm Littler expressed concern about this issue:
“On behalf of our firm, we share in a deep sense of distress and anguish and will continue to unequivocally condemn any form of prejudice, bigotry or intolerance. To our employees and colleagues of color, we want to say: We’re here for you; we’re listening; and we stand in solidarity with you and all those who face ongoing systematic marginalization, racism and oppression.
Littler had also noted the words spoken by Barack Obama: “This shouldn’t be normal in 2020 America. It can’t be normal. If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better”.
In the case of Akin Gump, chairperson Kim Koopersmith published a commitment to Racial Justice in the firm’s website.
“From the voices of two generations of moral leadership, Akin Gump heeds the call. We cannot remain silent, and we cannot look away. And we cannot accept the sad reality that too little has changed for too long (…) We start by acknowledging and recognizing the most basic reality that systemic racism is a blight on our country and around the world. It has caused too much death, indignity and injustice to be allowed to fester as it has without sufficient challenge. We must commit to addressing racism and the deep wounds it has inflicted on our nation. And in making that commitment, we must combine immediate steps with a sustained, intense relentlessness of purpose”, explained Koopersmith.
Koopersmith also remarked a Martin Luther King Jr. sentence: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter”.
Regarding the British law firm Dentons, its Global Chief Executive Office, Elliott I. Portnoy, wrote a note entitled ‘The time for action and courage is now’. Within this note, Portnoy highlighted the following lines: “I know we cannot remain silent and, along with my colleagues in the US and around the world, we must continue our shared fight against racism and discrimination in all its forms. We need inclusive societies and organizations that celebrate the individual perspectives, experience, insight and ideas all of us bring”.
“It is time for each of us to question ourselves and the role we are playing to drive progress. We must call out any behavior that is not acceptable; actively and empathetically support colleagues; listen to and learn from all the voices around us; use the channels in our Firm to address any concerns; and above all else, be unyielding in our unwillingness to accept injustice and racism of any kind in our Firm and in our communities”, said Portnoy.
White & Case published a tweet quoting a message from Chair Hugh Verrier which contains the following paragraph: “We are, all of us, struggling with our own challenges wight now. At this moment, it is more important than ever that we listen and care for each other, that we show compassion (…) We can start by acknowledging the pain our Black colleagues are felling right now. The outrage we all feel is magnified by the lived experience of enduring racism and inequality. Even this pandemic is disproportionately affecting Black lives”.
Hugh brought up a letter wrote by King from Jail in Birmingham, Alabama: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”.
From the American law firm Cleary Gottlieb, its Managing Partner Michael A. Gerstenzang shared a message. Within it, Gerstenzang noted Cleary Gottlieb’s donation to two organizations that fights for the racial inequality (Equal Justice Initiative and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund).
“Creating opportunities for the voices of our Black colleagues to be heard and for us to support one another is also critically important, particularly at this time. Next week, we will be launching a series of discussions on large-scale cultural change and effective organizational leadership, facilitated by a leading external educator. Our goal is to create safe spaces where our Black colleagues can express the breadth and depth of their emotions and discuss how the Firm can best support them. We will separately hold a series of discussions with the broader Cleary community to define and discuss the importance of allyship. The ability to be an effective ally is a core tenet of inclusivity, a fundamental value of the Firm”, said Gerstenzang.
"Racism, intolerance or violence in any form has no place in society. Within DWF, such behaviour has and always will be contrary to our values, our culture and our sustained commitment to diversity & inclusion. We are clear about our resolve to embed inclusive leadership at every level within our business and to use our collective sense of humanity to ensure we continue to foster a culture that acknowledges the feelings and concerns of those colleagues currently underrepresented within our workforce", said CEO DWF Group Plc, Sr. Nigel Knowles in a statement.
"It is important to acknowledge that across DWF, we know we are not where we need to be in terms of our BAME (Black, Asian & Minority Ethnicities) representation and inclusion but we have pledged to do more to move the dial and be there for our BAME colleagues, always. Through our leadership and HR policies and practices, we will focus on representation and progression, through our Affinity networks and Executive Sponsors on Race, we will build upon our efforts to compassionately and constructively talk about these matters openly and honestly, finally through our client engagement, we will work collaboratively to tackle racial inequality", settled Knowles.