05 November 2020

Herbert Smith Freehills creates staff forums to communicate 'openly and honestly' with leadership

Justin D'Agostino

HSF CEO Justin D'Agostino

Four regional 'People Forums' to be set up to foster a closer connection with the firm's leaders

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) is setting up regional staff forums in a bid to improve the ability of employees outside the partnership to help shape its strategy.

There will be ‘People Forums’ in Asia, Australia, EMEA and the UK/US made up of staff who will be chosen based on two criteria, according to the firm: ‘Their passion for the firm’s culture and the perspective that they can contribute’.

They are designed to improve feedback to the firm’s leadership and provide a sounding board for ideas and help with their implementation. They are a ‘key initiative’ of a new People & Culture Advisory Board, which was established in June with a mission ‘to reinforce a culture of engagement, ambition and high performance’.

Chief executive Justin D’Agostino, who co-chairs advisory board with chief human resources officer Helen Anthony, said the firm was responding to staff feedback that they wanted “a closer connection with the firm’s leaders”. He added: "We want to create groups with innovative, wide-ranging perspectives that reflect the diversity of our business. The People Forums will be places where all members can contribute openly and honestly – and where hierarchy isn't important.” 

HSF has unveiled a number of initiatives focused on the firm’s culture since D’Agostino took up his post in the spring, including a new flexible working policy and a strategy to improve diversity within the firm dubbed ‘10 Actions for Change’.

Employee welfare is regarded as a key element of the ESG agenda. In a letter to CEOs in January Black Rock chairman and CEO Larry Fink called for “a more sustainable and inclusive capitalism” adding: “Companies must be deliberate and committed to embracing purpose and serving all stakeholders – your shareholders, customers, employees, and the communities where you operate.”

In an op-ed for The Global Legal Post this week, Tony Williams, principal of Jomati Consultants, predicted that law firms would come under pressure from clients to ‘get their own houses in order’. ‘Developing a diverse workforce and leadership team should enhance staff retention and motivation and lead to better decision making,’ he added.

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