We caught up with Claudia and LaToya from Clyde & Co to hear about the Achieving Cultural and Ethnic Diversity (ACED) network at the firm and what it’s like to be part of it.
Tell us a bit about your journey into the law sector and Clyde & Co
Claudia: I’m currently a trainee solicitor at Clyde & Co and I remember reading about Bright Network when I was applying to law firms! I did my law degree at the University of Bristol, and I attended a Clyde & Co vacation scheme at the end of my second year. I was offered a training contract thereafter and completed the LPC after I graduated. Before that, I lived in Hong Kong for 18 years so diversity in the workplace was important to me when applying to law firms. For example, I would always ask what diversity initiatives the firms had in place and I would often try and get an understanding of the firm's diversity by looking at the panel of representatives.
LaToya: I’m a Litigation Executive at Clyde & Co – a lot of people don’t actually know what that means! It’s kind of like being in between a paralegal and a fully qualified solicitor. My route into law was a bit different to Claudia’s. I didn’t do a law degree – I studied criminology at the University of Liverpool – so I’m now completing a course with CILEx, hoping to qualify with them next year. Before being at Clyde & Co, I worked as a legal secretary in different areas of law – personal injury, family and criminal. I joined Clyde as a paralegal and as my case load and ability grew, I moved over to my current role.
How would you describe the ACED network to an aspiring trainee at Clyde & Co?
Claudia: At its very basic foundation, ACED is our cultural and diversity network - it stands for 'Achieving Cultural and Ethnic Diversity' One of the things we do is work towards identifying issues that BAME employees face in the workplace and try to solve them. The network is not just about tackling the issues, it is also about celebrating the diversity in the firm, which there is a lot of. What is great about ACED is that you can make it your own and take initiative to launch new projects. For example, coming from Hong Kong, I had always celebrated Chinese New Year with friends and family. I wanted to continue celebrating this festival and share the joy and happiness surrounding the New Year. I therefore organised for the celebration of Chinese New Year at Clyde & Co - I liaised with the restaurant to ensure the menu for the day was authentically Chinese, and I drafted a blog post on Clyde Connected (Clyde & Co's intranet) to spread awareness and encourage others to wear red that day. What we do in the ACED network is not confined to a box of restrictions, it is really what you make of it and you are involved as much as you want to be involved. ACED isn’t just a specific group of ethnic minorities either – it’s diversity within the diverse network as well.
LaToya: When we were getting the network off the ground, we saw a gap in the initiatives Clyde & Co had – we already had our gender equality network GECCO and our LGBTQ+ network Pryde & Co, but we didn’t have something for those from ethnic minority backgrounds. As well as the aims Claudia mentioned, it’s also important to us to not only have members of the network who are from minority backgrounds, but to have allies too. Everyone’s welcome and we really appreciate an increased level of support from the rest of the firm, including Partners. I hope those who want to join Clyde & Co know that it doesn’t matter what cultural or ethnic background they’re from, this is a place you can come to and learn about people from different backgrounds.
What is the primary goal of the ACED network?
LaToya: Our ultimate vision is to serve and ensure all people from different minority ethnic backgrounds are well represented across all functions and levels throughout the firm. We want to create and maintain an environment that is truly inclusive, where all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities to resources and where our differences are celebrated and embraced. We’re keen to increase the involvement of BAME employees in the overall strategic direction and development of the firm. We’re also looking at collaborating with internal and external networks, such as Pryde & Co and GECCO.
What sorts of activities are you working on at the moment?
Claudia: We created a full calendar of events where people from all over the firm can share in our cultural and religious celebrations. Once we have the calendar together, we try and celebrate as much as we can within our capacity. We had planned to celebrate Eid, for example, however our potential for this event was limited by the lockdown.
LaToya: As well as the calendar of events mentioned, I am looking at getting further Partner engagement by running an event in partnership with another global company who have offices in Manchester where our cultural and ethnic diversity networks would get together and work to educate the Partners on some of the issues that those from diverse backgrounds may face in the workplace. For example, to allow them to understand how someone celebrating Ramadan may not be in the office every day or may need to take certain breaks to pray. Surrounding the current racial injustice protest going on in the US and the UK, we are getting together a series of blog posts where Black Heritage members of the team can write about their experiences, their thoughts and show their support. Trainees can get involved in any of these activities.
What does it mean to you to work somewhere that values and celebrates cultural and ethnic diversity?
Claudia: For me, it’s really important to work in a place where cultures are accepted and celebrated. I spend the majority of my time at work so it’s important to be in an environment where, even though I’m not at home in Hong Kong, it kind of feels like I have a piece of home with me, because I’m free to celebrate these things that people don’t normally celebrate here. It makes you feel a sense of community and it’s very welcoming that everyone is genuinely interested in learning about other cultures at Clyde & Co.
LaToya: Before I came to Clyde & Co, looking for whether a company was diverse or had any diversity networks was never something that was on my radar. But now that I’m here and I’m experiencing a diversity network like ACED, I think it’s very important and would definitely advise future Trainees to look out for that when making their applications. Going back to what’s going on at the moment with the case of George Floyd, for Clyde & Co to have a network like ACED where people like myself, and any other black employees that we have, know where to go for support and to get things off our chest, is really great. It shows how much Clyde & Co cares about their employees’ wellbeing.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Bright Network members about Clyde & Co?
Claudia: When I was applying to firms, it was important to me to find a genuinely friendly firm, somewhere where I would enjoy and look forward to going to work every day. At Clyde & Co, people from all aspects of the firm are there to support you - those in your intake will help you if you need help in something you may not have as much experience in, the graduate development team check on us every few months to ensure we are enjoying our seat, and the learning and development team host sessions to ensure we are doing alright. Especially now working from home, it is good to see there are various sessions surrounding mental health and the struggles we may face working remotely.
LaToya: For me, I’d say that Clyde & Co are genuinely interested in their employees and helping them progress as best as possible. I feel like I’ve progressed at the firm a lot quicker than in the rest of my career so far. With Clyde & Co, I find that there are always new challenges to be taken on and the support I have from my supervisors to do something new is always amazing. I’ve also noticed that whenever people want to try working in a different area of law, Clyde & Co actively encourage that and try to move people around between the different teams as best they can to accommodate, so everyone can find the best place for them. Clyde & Co are also helping me pay for my CILEx course, further showing their commitment to helping their employees be the best they possible can.
Keen to find out more about Clyde & Co? View their profile and live opportunities here.