Diversity and inclusion: 10 who, what, why, how and when questions to Tiernan Brady, Global Director of Inclusion at Clifford Chance

Tuesday 13 December 2022
  1. Who is Tiernan Brady and what did you do before joining Clifford Chance?

    I am the Global Director of Inclusion at Clifford Chance. Before joining Clifford Chance in 2019, I was Director of The Equality Campaign – the successful Australian marriage equality campaign. Prior to that I was the Political Director of Yes Equality, the successful Irish campaign for marriage equality – the first two countries in the world to enact marriage equality by public vote. 

    I was policy director of GLEN, the Irish LGBT+ non-governmental organisation (NGO) where my work included the delivery of civil partnership legislation and HIV support including the launch of KnowNow, Ireland’s first community rapid HIV testing program. I also was the Director of Organisation to Irish Deputy Prime Minister (Tánaiste), Mary Coughlan and Mayor of my hometown of Bundoran in Ireland.
  2. Why is there a Global Head of D&I role at Clifford Chance?

    Inclusion is a core value to Clifford Chance. It is good for our people and their families, our clients and society, but we believe inclusion is also a core value of the law and an absolute business imperative. You can’t be one of the world’s greatest law firms if you do not have inclusion at the heart of your firm strategy.
  3. What does it entail?

    I believe that our culture is built by each of us. It is social change and therefore it requires us to think like campaigners for social change. We have developed an approach called The Permanent Campaign – a campaign that raises awareness, builds support and then empowers and activates all our people to be ambassadors and campaigners for inclusion. 
  4. What made you decide to apply for this role at a global law firm?

    Inclusion and the law are not separate concepts – they are totally intertwined. So much of the framework of inclusion is based on core values of the law: justice, access, fairness. In my years of campaigning, it has been clear how important the law is to equality. Practically every equality campaign in the world is about the law: looking for new laws, getting rid of bad ones, helping people gain access to justice. So, for me the law is the natural home of inclusion. 

    When I first spoke with Clifford Chance we talked about inclusion, the law and campaigning; it was clear we were in total agreement about what we wanted to lead the legal sector towards. Every day across the global firm I meet people who are championing inclusion, not as something additional to their work in the law but because they work in the law. That reminds me all the time why Clifford Chance was exactly where I wanted to be.
  5. What are your main objectives in this role?

    The main objective for Clifford Chance is to be a place where our people have equality of opportunity and equality of experience. Inclusion sits at the heart of our firm every day, in how we treat each other and are treated – whether that be within the firm, with our clients of in society. It is only when inclusion becomes something that is hardwired into our thinking every day that it is real. We want to ensure inclusion is never something we do as well as our work: it needs to be something we do as an intrinsic part of who we are.
  6. How are you planning on meeting them?

    Our strategy sets out a clear framework: Change the Rules, Change the Culture, Change the Lived Experience. Our work focuses on each of these areas. For Change the Rules, we focus on policies, structures and rule change in areas of both practical and symbolic importance to people. Our rules and structures are imperfect because we are imperfect and we made them, so we have to constantly test and improve them.

    For Change the Culture we develop our inclusion campaigns. Culture is what decides if our stated goals are real to people. All the greatest rules in world will not deliver inclusion unless there is a focus on making the culture real. As has been said before – Culture eats strategy for breakfast. 

    Changing the Lived Experience is about designing and delivering initiatives that are targeted and tailored to the needs of individuals. This combination strategy is at the heart of our approach. 
  7. What’s the biggest challenge in this respect?

    For me, the biggest challenge is to build a culture where people can see they are the most powerful ambassadors for inclusion in their own circles and that they need to actively champion and demonstrate our values if we want them to be real. All too often, people worry about getting involved in inclusion. They fear making a mistake, getting all the words wrong – and in the corporate world that fear of making a mistake is even more pronounced. People who support inclusion end up becoming silent supporters. All too often that silence has been made worse by bad inclusion training which has focused on all the potential mistakes and created even more fear of error. People end up thinking they support inclusion but the easiest way to do nothing wrong is to do nothing at all and that is the worst outcome. 

    We need people to see that they should never ever feel they have to be experts before they are advocates. There is no such thing as perfection and people shouldn’t feel they have to be perfect. We need them to understand they are not the problem, they are the solution, and we need them to be confident about demonstrating their values. Dismantling that fear is our biggest challenge. 
  8. What’s the most encouraging thing you’ve seen?

    Our people. People are truly amazing. They have the most incredible capacity to adapt, imagine and drive change. Great inclusion campaigns recognise that. Over the last few years, as we have rolled out our campaign approach, I am constantly blown away by the innovation, determination and energy of our people. It is why I know we are only going to get better at this as each year passes. 
  9. What’s your biggest success so far?

    There are so many initiatives and campaigns that the firm and our people have developed that make me proud. Our inclusion targets on gender, ethnicity and LGBT+ people; our reverse mentoring programs; the Pride Art galleries; our inclusion campaign calendar. All have driven change, but the most important to me is the level of support across the firm from people in all regions and at all levels who want to make this happen. That Permanent Campaign approach has transformed our understanding of how change happens and that allows our initiatives to make a bigger impact. 
  10. When will your job be done?

    ​​​​​​​Inclusion is a clear goal but there is no finish line where you get to stop and go home. Your culture never stops being built and shaped. Even if you win, you then have continue to champion and defend your values forever. The minute you stop campaigning for inclusion is the minute it will start to disappear. That is why, in Clifford Chance, we talk about inclusion being the Permanent Campaign.