07 October 2020

Axiom pledges to improve black lawyer representation as part of diversity drive

Catherine Kemnitz

Flexible legal resourcing giant promises 'meaningful change' as it launches Diversity by Design programme

Flexible legal resourcing giant Axiom has pledged to improve the representation of black professionals within its ranks.

The initiative was unveiled today to coincide with the publication of Axiom’s second annual diversity report, which details the proportion of lawyers on its books who identify as women and as belonging to a racial or ethnic minority.

While these metrics compare favourably with law firms, the New York-based alternative legal services provider says it needs to do more to improve the diversity of its lawyers and its corporate personnel.

It describes its Diversity by Design initiative as a ‘programmatic framework for addressing systemic representation, retention, and advancement inequities’ and says its first priority will be to improve the retention, recruitment and advancement of black professionals.

The project will kick off by investigating how best to measure progress ‘beyond typical diversity yardsticks’ with the promise of diversity KPIs being set next year.

“It’s time to acknowledge the inadequacy of corporate diversity – even among those organizations we celebrate as its leaders – and the inability of traditional diversity programs to drive meaningful change,” said Catherine Kemnitz, global head of legal.

“The Diversity by Design program we have started to build represents an important step toward creating that change and sustaining its progress.” 

While black lawyers represent 12% of Axiom’s lawyers compared to 5% of all US lawyers, it acknowledges that it “has not yet done enough to advocate for the black community”.

Other metrics contained in the report include the fact that 52% of its lawyers identify as women against 37% at the largest 350 US law firms while 29% of its lawyers identify as racial/ethnic minorities compared to 18% of lawyers at the largest 250 law firms.

In June last year, Baker McKenzie laid claim to be the first global law firm to set targets to achieve 40% women, 40% men and 20% flexible (women, men or non-binary persons) representation among partners, senior business professionals, firm committee leadership and candidate pools for recruitment by 2025.

In July, Clifford Chance set gender, ethnicity and LGBT+ targets to improve the diversity of its workforce which included ensuring 40% of global partners are women by 2030 – doubling its current tally – and 3% are LGBT by 2025.

Meanwhile, in February the Move the Needle Fund - a $5m project to explore new ways of improving diversity - secured its fifth and final law firm investor, Nixon Peabody.

Email your news and story ideas to: news@globallegalpost.com