Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD) has joined more than 90 leading law firms across the UK, USA, and Canada to partner with Diversity Lab, demonstrating the firm's continued and unwavering commitment to fostering a culture of inclusion and support for people with disabilities.
Partnering firms have committed to implementing various actions listed in Diversity Lab's recently launched Disability Inclusion Commitments, which outline 10 actions that organisations should take to increase inclusion and equitable access to opportunities for disabled individuals in the legal profession.
In the UK, led by the firm's Disability Network, WBD has committed to "increasing opportunities to hire disabled people" as part of its collaboration with Diversity Lab, which comes after the firm achieved Mansfield UK certification for the 2022-23 year. Administered by Diversity Lab, the Mansfield Rule aims to ensure that firms have considered at least 30 per cent women, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ lawyers, and lawyers with disabilities for opportunities including leadership and governance roles, equity partner promotions, formal client pitches, and senior lateral positions.
Over the last 12 months WBD - with the help of its Disability Network, recruitment and facilities teams - has made several changes to improve its ability to recruit more diversely from a disability perspective - including sharing insights with recruitment assessors, reviewing job adverts to make them even more disability inclusive, and ensuring its website contains comprehensive accessibility information about each office, eliminating the need for visitors to request this information separately. What3Words location references, directions before arrival, and information on lifts, wheelchair access, accessible toilets, hearing loops, guide dogs, and disabled parking are all vital to removing barriers and making everyone immediately welcome.
Michelle Essen, Legal Director and WBD Disability Network Chair said:
"As a firm, we are really proud of what we've achieved around disability so far, but recognise there is more to do. We remain steadfastly committed to raising awareness, normalising conversations, and driving positive change around disability, long-term conditions and neurodiversity. Recruiting inclusively plays a key part in how we foster a truly welcoming and inclusive culture for our people, our clients and our suppliers."
Charlotte Hall, Senior Recruitment Advisor and a key member of WBD Disability Network's Steering Group added:
"Our diversity and inclusion goals are now increasingly part of our firmwide short, medium and long-term business strategies and Diversity Lab’s Disability Inclusion Commitments provides us with further opportunity to cultivate more inclusive and equitable cultures for people with disabilities in the legal profession."
As part of this initiative, Diversity Lab is facilitating quarterly webinars to raise awareness and educate more than 1000 leaders from Mansfield law firms and legal departments on topics such as understanding disability language, definitions, and self-identification; removing physical and digital barriers to accessibility; establishing employee resource groups; and supporting neurodiversity.
WBD's Disability Network, which launched in 2021 and comprises 85 members across eight UK offices, has made significant strides in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion with a number of initiatives over the past year. These include: new 'Disability:Connect' sharing sessions – holding discussions and sharing information around disability-related topics like mental health, and being parents and carers; marking Neurodiversity Celebration Week, where ADHD Foundation Umbrellas were displayed in each WBD office as part of a national awareness-raising project; and for International Day of Disabled Persons, hosting a "Disability Inclusion in the legal profession" webinar with the Law Society as guest speakers.