18 Oct 2017

Are we gaining momentum in diversity & inclusion?

Diversity and inclusion can be challenging in the workplace. And at Clayton Utz, we're asking the challenging questions about what diversity and inclusion mean, and what they look like in the modern workplace. Some of our people share their thoughts on whether we're gaining momentum in areas such as gender equality, flexible work arrangements, cultural diversity, mental wellbeing ‒ and whether law firms even have a role in social change.

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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.


MALE:  You can't have targets for women in senior roles and expect men to be happy about it.

MALE:  Provocative statement.

FEMALE:        Little bit.  It's not a controversial thing to say that men have had the benefit of social norms that see them as the breadwinner.

MALE:  I'm very conscious that I'm white and male and that gives me 2 out of the 3 trifectas in terms of privilege.

FEMALE:        And it says something about a law firm if we know that 60% of graduates coming out of uni are female, so we're not seeing those numbers reflected in our partnership.

MALE:  You couldn't say that that reflected the allocation of  talent amongst men and women and almost by definition that means 30% of those men have actually only got there because they're men.

FEMALE:        We're lawyers.  We all want to succeed on our merit and we want to be seen to succeed on merit.

FEMALE:        We're taking steps in the right direction and I do think that you need to have the target, otherwise you don't have the discipline to get there.

MALE:  My experience has been I've actually worked in a team where I was the only male for quite a while and I actually think that gave me a bit of a different perspective on how things work.

FEMALE:        It's easy to remain the same.  It takes guts to change.

FEMALE:       You can't service clients to the standard they expect if you work flexibly.

MALE:  I would flip the statement really and I'd say you can't service clients to the standard they expect if you work inflexibly.

MALE:  We've never had an issue with clients in terms of them complaining about flexible learning.  In fact I had one client who said to me that if she had more, if she had a better ability to work flexibly when she worked at a law firm she probably would have stayed at the law firm much longer

FEMALE:      Sometimes flexibility doesn't work.  Sometimes the transaction doesn't permit it, sometimes a child is sick on a crunch day of a transaction, flexibility requires flexibility from both parties.  I think we don't always get it right, but I think there's a genuine effort here to try and get it right for people, and that's been really important to me.

FEMALE:      The legal profession doesn't use or value culturally diverse talent.

MALE:  I don't know.  White male, what do you think?  I think my honest opinion is law firms haven't traditionally dealt with very well with cultural diversity.  I think historically they have been somewhere for white, middle class men to go and have a profession.

MALE:  That's definitely changing.  At Clayton Utz we have a variety of different people.

FEMALE:       And I think also our position in the world, our proximity to Asia, doesn't make business sense not to have a proportion of your staff who are from an Asian background

MALE:  In law firms now, you do have people of different cultural backgrounds in senior positions so when you have students looking to decide what to do at university they can see a profession that isn't quite as homogenised as it used to be.

MALE:  Ok.  Stress and depression are part and parcel of being a lawyer.

MALE:  There's a healthy level of stress and an unhealthy level of stress.  And I think it's important to make sure people are staying on the right side of that line, I guess.

MALE:  Personally, I've probably been close to it being more than just normal stress and anxiety that comes with being a lawyer and, it's pretty tough to actually recognise that I think.

FEMALE:        Staff wellbeing and flexibility are really linked.  Make sure that people have the opportunity to do the other things in their lives that are really important to them is also a way of ensuring good wellbeing and to make sure that people are coming to work and able to bring their best selves to work.

FEMALE:      We're fortunate that we're quite a social firm and there is a lot of social interaction so that people are naturally, because we care about each other, checking in, not just in a motherhood, on RUOK Day, there is genuine care, we care for each other.

MALE:  Law firms who stick to their knitting and not try to lead social progress.  That is a statement that I do find mentally disgrevious.  I don't think we can just lock ourselves away in our ivory tower and pretend that the world around us isn't changing and we're privileged to have access to the power that comes with what we do, and I think that allows us to get out there and advocate for change in a way in which perhaps other organisations can't.

FEMALE:     I think there's a perception that somehow law firms have different values to the rest of the community.  It's standing up for the disadvantaged, doing what you can to help marginalised groups in society is not about corporate values, it's about Australian values, participating, standing up for things you believe in, having a voice.

FEMALE:          Absolutely.  And I also think that social progress and legislative change go hand in hand.  So it actually completely debunks this statement because really you absolutely need lawyers to make a lot of social change.

FEMALE:          Why should law firms sit back and be the last to adapt because we're meant to be the so called stale, noble profession.  Just get on board and get with the times.