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Digital mentoring scheme to boost Black representation in the law

By Monidipa Fouzder >>

(10 July 2023)

A ‘diversity centric’ legal recruitment firm has developed a digital mentoring scheme to boost Black representation in the law.

The tech platform, developed by The Stephen James Partnership, will connect senior decision-makers in law firms and in-house legal teams to qualified Black lawyers. It builds on the recruitment firm’s mentoring scheme ‘Endeavour’, that has connected more than 200 senior legal professionals with Black aspiring lawyers.

According to Solicitors Regulation Authority data published last year, only 2% of lawyers working in law firms are Black. Only 1% of partners in the larger and biggest firms are Black.

Samuel Clague, chief executive of The Stephen James Partnership, told the Gazette that everyone should have a mentor at every step of their career.

While many firms have internal mentoring programmes, ‘one of the potential drawbacks is often people who are participating do not feel they can speak 100% freely because of the potential it might get back to someone who knows someone – therefore their card could be marked’, Clague said.

With an external-based platform, senior private practice and in-house lawyers can speak freely to lawyers from other organisations.

On creating a digital platform, Clague said it was difficult to facilitate face-to-face mentoring at scale. ‘Having it digital to start with enables relationships to build through the platform’. However, while the platform is digital, Clague said the matching process is not totally automated.

Those who are being mentored do not pay a fee, but mentors do. Clague said the platform and how it works – onboarding, matching people and overseeing relationships – requires a lot of time and resources. However, external mentoring pays dividends, Clague said.

Research conducted by the recruitment firm with current mentors found that:

  • 70% were more likely to stay with their organisation since participating in the scheme;
  • 63% felt more engaged with their organisation; and
  • 87% were more proactively involved in their employer’s D&I initiatives.

An overwhelming majority of mentors felt their mentoring relationships improved their listening and communication skills. One mentor said the experience ‘broadened my outlook on the obstacles that black lawyers face’.

Clague said the latest version of the platform will be launched imminently.

(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)