HomeThe InfluencersThe ConsultantsNearly 40% of business services professionals have experienced discrimination when working in...

Nearly 40% of business services professionals have experienced discrimination when working in a law firm

Research conducted by Professional Services recruitment specialists Ambition has revealed that nearly 40% of business services professionals working in the legal sector have experienced discrimination.

Furthermore, 34% of jobseekers believe that discrimination during the hiring process played a part in why they were or were not selected for a position in a law firm. This has increased by 12% since 2020 when 22% said this was the case.

Ambition surveyed 142 business services professionals who are currently working in a Top 100 law firm in the UK in either Finance & Accounting or Business Development & Marketing functions. 

An initial survey was conducted in 2020 and repeated at the end of 2023 to compare results.

  • When asked, “Do you feel that discrimination has ever played a part in why you were or were not selected for a position?  34% of respondents said yes – this increased by 12% since the 2020 survey when 22% said yes.

Matthew Gardner. Managing Director of Ambition UK, commented; There are certainly underlining issues with recruitment processes and a large proportion of people are experiencing discrimination because of those processes.”

Olivia Kelly, Associate Director of Legal Finance at Ambition, commented, A contributory factor to people feeling they may have been discriminated against is when employers don’t provide clear feedback following an interview process. Providing specific feedback to candidates is so important – saying someone ‘isn’t the right fit’ isn’t constructive and leads to people making assumptions about why they may not have been selected. So hiring managers must do better and provide timely, specific and constructive feedback to all candidates.”

  • 41% of respondents said that the language or tone of a job advert would affect whether they would apply for the role. This increased by 10% since 2020 when 31% said this was the case.
    • When asked to provide examples of some of the language that would encourage them to apply, some of the most common phrases included flexibility, honesty, transparency, inclusive, collaborate and supportive environment and gender-neutral language.
  • When asked “Do you proactively research a firm’s Diversity & Inclusion policy before applying for a position?” 40% of respondents said yes. This has increased significantly since 2020 when only 17% said yes, indicating that this is of increasing importance to jobseekers.

But it’s not enough for firms to simply have a D&I policy. Olivia Kelly commented, D&I has to be front and centre in terms of what you’re proactively doing as a firm. Candidates don’t want firms to pay lip service to D&I on the company website, they need to see authentic actions taking place and see this being embedded as part of the culture.”

  • When asked; “Have you experienced any discrimination when working for a law firm?” 39% said yes, 56% said no and 5% prefer not to say. This was similar to 2020 when 40% said yes, 52% said no and 8% prefer not to say.
    • We then asked “on what basis were you discriminated against”, comments around ageism, sexism, flexibility and presenteeism were the most common responses.
  • Furthermore, 69% said they didn’t report the discrimination – this has come down from the 2020 survey when 77% didn’t report it.
  • For those that did report the discrimination, only 14% were happy with how it was handled by the firm.

The survey results clearly highlight that there’s a lot of work to be done in terms of the process after someone reports the discrimination,” said Matthew Gardner, “People don’t feel safe enough to report issues or may be worried about being perceived negatively after reporting discrimination. Steps are being taken in the right direction, by firms, but more needs to be done.

Matt Baldwin
Matt Baldwin
Co-founder – Coast Communications

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