In a series of articles, we discuss topical issues facing industry leaders, all through the lens of diversity, equity and inclusion (D,E &I)
With this week marking inclusion week and the theme being 'Take Action, Make Impact', we thought we’d pass the reigns onto other business leaders to give us their thoughts on diversity and inclusion, and what action they are taking to bring about impactful change in their industry.
Here we have Scullion Law’s story…
In a legal landscape where tradition often reigns supreme, Scullion LAW is a fine example of an organisation that's keeping pace with change, they’re not just talking the talk but walking the walk when it comes to D, E & I. As we celebrate National Inclusion Week, we're delighted to shine a spotlight on their remarkable journey. We asked a number of their key individuals a series of questions and here are their responses:
1. Why are you passionate about diversity and inclusion?
At Scullion LAW, we place the utmost importance on cultivating an equitable and inclusive culture. We firmly believe that embracing and celebrating our different qualities strengthens our firm, improves the quality of our services, and contributes to a fair and just society. Diversity and inclusion is all about representation. The accessibility of resources together with seeing role models from a variety of backgrounds improves the culture of the firm, whilst promoting positivity among the profession and we hope it attracts people to join the firm in varying capacities to help service the needs of the community.
2. Can you share examples of specific actions your organisation has taken to promote diversity and inclusion in the legal profession?
We have deep ties to the community, and stress a mantra that says, “All are welcome”. We look to unleash the potential of every person in our team. To that end, we actively fund, and support community led programmes that promote diversity and inclusion within our firm and the profession.
As well as raising the profile of LGBTQ+ members of the profession through being a headline sponsor of Glasgow’s Pride, Mardi Gla, this year we were the major sponsor of the first Pride event ever to be organised in Hamilton.
We support our Christian, Muslim and other religious colleagues to give them full flexibility to participate in their religious observance, whilst continuing their progression with the firm. We offer a spirituality room where staff can meditate and observe their faith-based principles, providing prayer mats and other facilities should they be required.
We are very proud of our work on inclusion. 10% of our current team are following a non-traditional route into law. Our Director, Gemma recently qualified as a solicitor after being with us for over 20 years, starting from school as a junior, progressing through the ranks to become a paralegal and then returning to study the degree and Diploma part-time. She is an excellent solicitor, in part due to her life experience and non-traditional route into law.
Another of our paralegals also returned to university on a part-time basis, graduated and is completing her traineeship with us. A third member of our team joined us after having completed his law degree some time ago, having decided that being a solicitor was not right for him. After our encouragement, he has recently returned to study the Diploma part time and we hope that he will commence a traineeship with us going forward.
We have another two members of the team who are working towards entering the profession through the firm and other colleagues who are studying to become paralegals.
We encourage and support all our people to fulfil their potential and appreciate only a privileged minority can do this through the traditional full time University route. By sharing the news of our success, we hope others will follow.
3. How have these actions resulted in tangible impacts or positive changes within your workplace?
We promote diversity within our team because we understand that diverse perspectives enhance our understanding of the law and enable us to better serve our clients. We also have a majority of female board of directors. This is something we are deeply proud of. Greater diversity promotes inclusive representation and the accessibility of resources together with seeing role models from a variety of backgrounds improves the culture of the firm, whilst promoting positivity among the profession. It has helped reach out to members of the community and we hope it attracts people to join the firm in varying capacities to help service the needs of the community.
4. What are some key challenges you’ve encountered in promoting diversity and inclusion in the legal field?
Lawyers can be a bit closed minded and rigid in their views, whilst observing a strict adherence to professional standards. This typically makes them care almost exclusively about clients, results, and how things are traditionally done. By making a conscious and consistent effort to discuss, demonstrate, and support diversity and inclusion, we hope to encourage other law firms and thus make D, E & I part of the new tradition within the legal profession. Breaking down stereotypes, removing discrimination and promoting tolerance and acceptance sometimes leads to uncomfortable conversations but these discussions are essential in order to make progress in the sphere of inclusion.
5. In your opinion, what are the most pressing issues that require immediate action to advance diversity and inclusion in the legal field?
Diversity is needed in the leadership of Law Firms, the justiciary and courts systems. Increasing the representation of underrepresented groups, including ethnic minorities, women, and individuals with disabilities, at leadership levels of the legal profession. This would lead to a trickle-down effect on all levels in terms of diversity.
Inclusion and diversity may not always be naturally occurring values that form in workplace cultures.
Establishments in the legal field may require regular training and visibility to current issues affecting the diversity dialogue, which may not be limited to attending conferences/symposiums on D, E & I but having real conversations with people about their lived experiences within the profession.
Making a conscious effort to include D, E & I statements in onboarding documents, communications guidelines, and codes of conduct policies is a necessity.
Fostering a workplace culture that values diversity, promotes inclusivity, and encourages open dialogue about diversity-related issues is integral.
Specialisation and client diversity training will go a long way to improving access to legal services for marginalised people. It is important to recognise the importance of diverse client needs and perspectives, and ensuring legal services are accessible and relevant to all segments of society. For instance, by training solicitors on issues relating specifically to the needs of LGBTQ+ persons will give that community of people a sense that their voices are being heard and that they can trust their legal representatives to get them justice.
6. How can National Inclusion Week serve as a platform to inspire legal professionals to take meaningful actions and create lasting impacts?
Inclusion week will serve as a platform to have real discussions about diversity and inclusion. Discussions about ‘what’, ‘why’, and ‘how’ in the realm of diversity and inclusion need to be brought to the fore in order to create meaningful change within the legal profession. Lessons that are learned can then be adopted and a positive shift towards cultivating a more inclusive culture within the profession initiated.
7. Can you share personal experiences or stories were taking action in support of inclusivity has made a profound difference in your legal career?
Managing Director, Nicholas Scullion, shares his personal story: -
‘A few years ago, before flexible working became the norm, there was a perception that lawyers had to be available 24/7 for their clients, especially in criminal law. As such, the idea of a part time criminal solicitor was difficult to process. However, it meant that our recruitment was restricted to the same kind of people, who were prepared to sacrifice their time and happiness because they wanted to be criminal lawyers. This led to a lot of anxiety and resentment and was very negative.
When we wanted to attract and retain happy people into our criminal team, we listened to what the best candidates wanted from a criminal career. It was obvious that there were people who would make exceptional criminal defence lawyers, but they didn’t want to sacrifice their families, caring responsibilities, or personal happiness. I was one of them!
Our focus on putting the client first to the detriment of our people, meant that we were losing the opportunity of working with great people. We changed strategy and were committed to putting the happiness of our people first. This started a journey which opened our eyes to the possibility of greater inclusion and diversity. We focused on creating flexible roles which met the needs of our people, trusting that great people working in a supportive and rewarding environment with clearly defined values and a strong culture would better serve our clients.
By moving our focus from our clients to our people, we have attracted and retained great people that have remained with us. They have elevated the quality of the work we do, delivered better results and ultimately rewarded the firm with over a thousand five-star reviews, excellent results, higher fees, peer recognition and law awards.
The realisation that we can and must challenge the status quo and do things in a better way has been transformative’.
8. What advice would you offer to legal organisations looking to take proactive steps to make a meaningful impact on diversity and inclusion?
Be deliberate about D, E & I - learn, understand, and incorporate D, E & I friendly policies in your operations.
Be transparent and honest about where your organisation is on its road to being inclusive. Without understanding what your current organisational culture is, how do you know what you need to do and if you are making progress?
Take stock and critically assess your hiring process, your clientele make-up, your marketing content, your internal communications, and your leadership structure.
Then understand where you need to improve and take the necessary steps to get there.
Ask for help. It’s okay not to have all the answers.
Find experts and more knowledgeable people that can help shape your policies.
Listen to others lived experiences of the profession and try to understand their perspective better – learn to adapt your thinking as well as your policies!
Why we should all be more inclusion?
Research has shown that 33% of teams are noticeably happier due to improved D, E & I policies, 32% of teams became more creative and innovative, and 31% are finding it easier to attract new talent.
Almost 50% of businesses in the UK have reported an increase in productivity due to improved D, E & I policies. 25% of those who have taken action have seen a direct correlation between improved policies and increased revenue.
Scullion LAW's journey exemplifies the power of taking action to promote D, E & I. Their actions have not only transformed their workplace but have also set an inspiring example for the legal profession as a whole. As we celebrate National Inclusion Week 2023, their story reminds us that change is possible when we prioritise D, E & I as core values in our organisations. Scullion LAW isn't simply setting an example; they're guiding the way towards a more inclusive future.
About the contributor:
Scullion Law are an award-winning law firm, known for their expertise and exceptional service. They prioritise the happiness and training of our people, ensuring exceptional results. By building trust and exceeding expectations, they consistently rank as the top-rated law firm in Glasgow and the West of Scotland. They have recently opened their first office in Edinburgh.
Thank you Doyin Akinola, Nicholas Scullion and Urfan Dar for your contributions.
If you’d like assistance with planning your inclusion event, share your insights or wish to discuss your D, E & I ambition, please contact us using this link:
Equally, if you have enjoyed reading this article, press the like button.