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EXCLUSIVE: London law firm reveals retention gap for Black, minority ethnic lawyers

Allen & Overy (A&O), one of Britain’s top law firms, revealed just yesterday that Black lawyers left its London office almost two-and-a-half years before their white peers, as it pledged to publish an annual “stay gap” to improve staff diversity.

The legal practice explained that the retention gap, which saw Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) lawyers as a whole leaving an average seven months earlier than white counterparts, was troubling for both the firm and the sector.

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By 2025, A&O also plans to ensure 15% of London partners come from ethnic minorities, compared to 9% currently, and to also increase the percentage of ethnic minority lawyers and support staff up to 25%. Moreover, the company aims to annually employ 35% ethnic minority trainees, including 10% Black trainees, equalise retention rates for trainee lawyers and focus on retaining more Black associates.

A&O announced the mentioned move after Rare Recruitment, a diversity recruitment consultancy, found that the average BAME lawyer’s tenure is about 18 months shorter than white peers across the industry.

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Ian Field, A&O’s UK diversity and inclusion partner pointed out that “The stay gap figure is an uncomfortable truth for us and the legal industry, but it gives us an objective way to measure the success of our efforts in this area”.

“We want to be clear that we recognise the problems within our own firm and are committed to tackling them head-on.”

The firm at present has no Black partners in London. About 22% of its associates, 31% of its trainees, and 16% of support staff are currently from BAME backgrounds.

Other top London law firms have also been trying to tackle diversity.

For example, Clifford Chance - like A&O, a member of London’s Magic Circle of five top firms by revenue - plans to ensure that 15% of all partner recruits in Britain and 30% of senior associates and senior business professionals will be from ethnic minorities by 2025.


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