A short presentation of the activities of the D&I working group

Monday 21 March 2022

Margareta Sovova

Bnt attorneys in CEE, Bratislava



Antonia Verna

Portolano Cavallo, Rome


Everyone talks about D&I, however, we are not sure that we all agree on what D&I really means.

The D&I working group wants to understand more about how diversity and inclusion is perceived by European law firms, as well as try to learn from each other’s experiences and help European independent law firms to be aware of D&I needs and implement proper actions.

Diversity and inclusion principles will help to create a fair and just environment in the legal profession and will improve decision-making, problem-solving, creativity, innovation and productivity. Diverse lawyers bring diverse opinions, diverse teams make better decisions and a more diverse and equitable legal industry drives more innovative and creative solutions.

What the D&I group has done so far and what our plans for 2022 are

In 2021, we launched a survey addressed to all our ERF members. The purpose of the survey was to get a better view of D&I practices and policies within law firms in Europe and get a real picture of the D&I policies already in place.

The survey included 11 questions addressed to European law firms of different sizes. We counted more than 100 participants (109).

45 per cent of the participants came from law firms with more than 80 employees, and 30 per cent of the participants from law firms with 15 employees or fewer. This data might imply that participants from medium sized law firms were less inclined to answer this survey and be proactive on this project. This point should be further investigated.

The survey revealed that:

  • Law firms associate diversity and inclusion mainly with issues of gender;
  • slightly over half of the law firms participating in the survey are aware of diversity issues;
  • gender diversity is ranked as the topic that receives most focus, while religious orientation scored lowest of the four diversity and inclusion groups looked at in the survey (such as gender diversity, race diversity, religious beliefs and sexual orientation);
  • the majority of law firms do not have a dedicated person responsible for diversity and inclusion issues;
  • the majority of law firms do not have an internal policy on diversity and inclusion – this is a key area of focus for us. However, the majority of participants state that they apply D&I principles in practice;
  • the majority of law firms want to address diversity and inclusion principles to become better law firms and deliver better services to clients; and
  • last but not least, the responses show that there is still a potential lack of regulation in this area and it may be argued that if behaviours do not change, more legislation may be required.

What’s next?

We would like to use the results of the survey to encourage further analysis and discussion on the D&I topic. We would do this to: promote a more diverse and inclusive approach in the legal profession; build an open dialogue among lawyers, law firms and public institutions with an exchange of experiences and best practices; and collaborate with our ERF members and the members of other IBA committees.

We thought that the best way to continue building on this survey and work together to support lawyers and law firms who want to fully engage with diversity and inclusion would be to prepare a D&I Toolkit to be offered to independent European Law Firms.

The D&I Toolkit should represent a sort of guidelines for those law firms that want to make a difference on D&I policies.

The Toolkit project

We are at the beginning of this new journey.

We have set up a task force inside of the D&I working group and we have started to investigate with the other IBA committees involved on D&I matters whether similar projects have been already implemented in order to get inspiration and avoid duplication of work.

At the same time, we have also invited all the members of the D&I group and the other IBA committees that we have contacted to provide us with information on the best D&I practices inside of their law firms.

The Public Policy group has also confirmed through Luca their interest in this project and their intention to cooperate with us.

Of course, each of you is very welcome to contribute if you like the idea. The doors are open, and any suggestions are always welcome.

This is very ambitious project but we think that nothing is impossible if we really want it and together we can pursue it.