We recently caught up with Cleo at HFW to find out more about the firm’s Social Mobility Network…
Introduction to yourself and your route into HFW
My name is Cleo and I've worked at HFW for 2 years. I studied Law at university. Whilst there, I also worked at Tesco and tried to get involved in some legal work, including volunteering to critique a pre-publication Law of Torts textbook. My family doesn’t have any legal connections, so I found it hard to get any kind of work experience, which is a fault of the legal world itself. I just had to apply to anything and everything until something stuck.
Coming out of university, I applied for as many paralegal jobs as I could. I didn't hear back from most of them. I was eventually offered a job as a Private Client Paralegal in Bromley; this gave me a base insight into an office environment and an introduction to the professional legal world.
Once I had this preliminary experience, I saw a job advertised as a Knowledge Management Paralegal at HFW. Despite not knowing what Knowledge Management was at the time, I brushed up on everything to do with the firm and managed to secure a job. I now hold a Training Contract with HFW commencing in March 2024.
What were the main reasons you wanted to join HFW over other firms?
I developed a niche interest in Shipping law at university, and HFW had been on my radar, as it is the top Shipping law firm globally. I was also interested in other areas of their work, namely Insurance and Commodities. HFW has offices around the world, so the opportunity to work globally appealed to me.
Please could you give us a general insight into what diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging looks like at HFW?
HFW have a series of D&I networks which cover Gender, Mental Wellbeing, LGBTQ+, Race & Ethnicity, and Social Mobility. These networks provide a link between colleagues and the firm's D&I committee, with the chair of each network representing their members. The networks provide a sense of community and help celebrate key D&I dates throughout the year.
Could you please share more detail on the Social Mobility Network and how it is run?
We have an active working group, made up of a cross-section of the firm from junior to senior staff members, who oversee the day-to-day management of the firm's social mobility work. This working group is chaired by the COO and a Partner from the Corporate & Commercial Team.
In addition, we have a wider network of over 50 colleagues who support with the delivery of our student engagement initiatives, including career insight sessions, mentoring, and our annual work experience programme for year 12 and 13 students from underrepresented communities.
How does this network support employees at HFW?
The Social Mobility Network provides colleagues with the opportunity to champion social mobility inclusion within the firm's policies and processes, we are able to flag policies that need progressing within the firm to increase inclusion of individuals from a more diverse range of backgrounds.
The network offers the opportunity for all colleagues in the firm to learn about how we can support individuals facing barriers to progress due to their socio-economic situation. The work experience programme for students from underrepresented communities ensures that colleagues from across the firm are introduced to these brilliant candidates for future roles, which will increase diversity in the long term at the firm.
The network provides a focus for all colleagues who want to celebrate the diversity of social backgrounds and the value that adds in terms of diverse perspectives in our teams.
Anything else you’d like to add on diversity at HFW or anything else more generally?
I think the firm really tries to celebrate all aspects of diversity. Like most large companies, there is more that can be done, but the D&I team here are excellent and they are helping to put a strong framework in place, where everyone can get involved in D&I initiatives across the firm globally.