How important are diversity, equity, and inclusion to the next generation of Sidley lawyers?
Extremely important, although I think it is imperative to emphasize how necessary DEI is for the current generation of Sidley lawyers. We, along with nearly all city law firms, have so much more progress to make, particularly in attracting and retaining Black lawyers. However, it would be a mistake to disregard what progress has already been made.
Whilst we’re a long way from where I think we need to be in terms of attracting and retaining Black lawyers, I think we’ve evolved from where city law firms were 20 years ago. I have so much admiration and respect for any senior Black lawyer that I meet, as I know that they would have persevered through so much, all whilst having nobody who looks like them at the top.
There will one day be an intake of junior lawyers with a plethora of role models and people at the top that not only look like them but also act like them. I just think we’re not quite there yet. But with correct sponsorship, opportunities, and support, we could be.
What does celebrating Black History Month mean to you personally?
It is a chance to take a step back and appreciate all of the progress and the sacrifices which have been made by Black Britons. I am half Jamaican, and my grandparents came to the UK in 1960. I was fortunate to grow up surrounded by Jamaican culture, and it is something which I hold close to me to this day and celebrate when I can. This month is the perfect opportunity to do so.
In your opinion, is there anything else law firms should do to help create a more diverse and inclusive environment for the Black community within the legal profession?
I think the most important thing is allowing Black lawyers to bring their whole selves to work. That is when you get the most out of any lawyer, not just a Black lawyer. A law firm does that by giving Black lawyers good work, client contact, learning opportunities, and supporting you when you are not in the room — regardless of what hairstyle you have, how you talk, or how you look. I think that this perspective will help with the problem of retaining Black lawyers. Where I have thrived the most are the firms which have allowed me to bring my whole self to the office every day. I am very lucky that Sidley’s London office is a place that allows me to be my full self.