Kultar Khangura is a Partner in the Birmingham Commercial Property team, he also chairs the firm’s Multi-Cultural Network Group. In this profile he talks about the group’s approach to diversity.
What are the key aims of the Multi-Cultural Network Group?
One of our key aims is to raise career aspirations amongst 15-18 year olds. We visit partner schools in inner-city areas near our offices, talk to the children about their future plans and offer practical help with CVs and college applications. We want to promote the idea that a career in professional services – whether in law, finance, IT or HR – is open to everyone.
How do you see things going forward?
There’s a lot of personal inequality that we can address. For example, if you measure a candidate who attended a selective school and whose parents have professional backgrounds against one whose background hasn’t afforded them such opportunities, then the latter won’t necessarily have the self-assurance to shine at interview. I’ve had candidates tell me that they’ve found the process daunting because they’re the first in their family to go to university – never mind becoming a lawyer. That just makes me want to get the message out that you shouldn’t be scared – the people here are very much like you.
Don’t forget, there’s a business benefit to this as well. We’re an international firm with clients from all parts of the world, who expect us to be as forward-thinking as they are. We win a lot of work through panel appointments, during which the question of our diversity policy is invariably raised. Clients want their advisers to share their ideas and philosophy.
Why does the group matter to potential applicants?
Thinking back almost ten years to when I first joined Pinsent Masons, I was immediately surprised by the number of black and Asian faces around the office, compared to the firms I had worked at previously. Since I’ve become involved in diversity issues, I’ve been really impressed by the level of time and commitment invested by senior management. The result is that I believe we do well in attracting BME applicants, many of whom are offered and accept Training Contracts.
How do you view the outlook personally?
It’s encouraging how many more young black and Asian lawyers are coming through now compared to twenty years ago – we’re clearly going in the right direction. I remember one particular year in Birmingham, when five of the six trainees in my department were from BME backgrounds. Maybe that was an exception, but it does underline the point. At the top end of the profession, the situation won’t change overnight, but it will change. All we can do is our small bit. If I can tell a class of 30 kids how I worked hard to shape my career, and persuade maybe two or three that they could do it too, then that’s progress. We partner a school in the east end of London which is very close to Canary Wharf, but the kids didn’t necessarily aspire to work there. We need to keep pushing the message that a career in law, and the professions more generally, is open to anyone with drive and ambition.
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