In October of 2021, Burford launched the second phase of its award-winning Equity Project, which has as its centerpiece a $100 million pool of legal finance capital to back commercial litigation and arbitration led by female and racially diverse lawyers as well as a commitment to share a portion of profits with charities focused on the advancement of historically underrepresented lawyers upon the successful resolution of Equity Project backed matters.
In January 2022, two of the legal and business leaders who support The Equity Project as Champions shared their perspective on how legal departments and law firms can continue to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. Their answers are gathered in edited form below.
There's clearly a near universal desire for more diversity in law, but progress hasn't kept pace with intentions. What myths persist attempting to explain this lack of progress? What can law firms and in-house legal departments do to actively address and dispel these myths?
Maria Eugenia Ramirez: Some of these myths include the belief that diversity and inclusion is simply about morality and ethics, that diversity and inclusion is only about gender and race (and nothing else), and that acquiring more diversity in law will just result in the exclusion of white people/white men. Diversity today means so much more than the myths described above. Diversity excludes no one, and it requires everyone's participation in order to truly "make it happen". Law firms need to set a consistent strategy to promote diversity as a true firm policy and keep track of its implementation. Law firms should also educate their people by offering diversity and inclusion trainings, conferences and lectures and participate in certifications such as the Mansfield Rule.
Daniel Winterfeldt: We need to break down the myth that what we are currently doing in the legal sector around diversity, equity and inclusion is even close to the mark. Over time there has been an emergence of more and more diversity, equity and inclusion activities such as sponsorships, pro bono projects, corporate social responsibility programs, awards, lists, et cetera. We need to remind ourselves that our core diversity, equity and inclusion activities should focus on the recruitment, retention, and promotion of diverse talent.
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