Embracing diversity and inclusion will benefit not only the legal profession as a whole but also the firm culture, said this managing partner.
Earlier this year, Carter Newell’s managing partner Paul Hopkins and his wife Jane Hopkins, national spokesperson for PFLAG+ Australia, had the privilege of meeting with the honourable Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG as part of Carter Newell’s Mardi Gras celebrations in Sydney.
The firm’s Sydney team also welcomed Nicholas Stewart, partner at Dowson Turco Lawyers and executive management committee member and co-chair of the LGBTI sub-committee Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR), to their Mardi Gras celebration – and have supported diversity and inclusion within the legal profession for over 25 years, when the firm commenced their Disability Support Job Placement Program.
In conversation with Lawyers Weekly, Mr Hopkins said that when it comes to diversity and inclusion, Carter Newell has a number of initiatives in play.
“Our approach to D&I has focused on being true to the firm values and treating people with respect and dignity, thus creating and fostering a safe workplace. We have always aimed to provide an environment where all individuals can realise their true potential and bring their whole self to work,” he said.
“On the back of a D&I staff survey in 2021, the firm continues to promote initiatives through a number of D&I streams: cultural diversity, LGBTIQ+, gender equality, flexibility and access, ability and wellbeing. Our range of initiatives actively educate and promote diversity and inclusion through conversations, guest speakers, staff participation and knowledge sharing. Our focus for 2022 will continue those efforts across each Carter Newell office to ensure we create inclusive workspaces in our firm and in the wider community. The firm’s D&I committee meets on a regular basis to establish different ways we can provide avenues for education and promotion.”
Carter Newell will also host a Pride Month event in June this year and currently has 67 per cent female lawyers.
“As workplaces continue to open up more, and employees are looking for greater opportunities to connect with each other, the D&I platform is even more important to maintaining an engaged and empowered workforce. Our commitment to D&I is woven through all aspects of the firm – from our recruitment and selection process, wellbeing and development and promotional strategies,” Mr Hopkins added.
“The firm champions D&I initiatives in a number of ways. Firstly, by bringing about more clarity and definition around our focus areas and why they are important. Secondly, seeking different opinions and ideas and inviting employees to add their touch on why these elements are important. In addition, the committee is more broadly highlighting different perspectives and challenging some points of view through opinion pieces and some short eLearning modules, as well as encouraging inclusive everyday practices in meetings, providing feedback and employee development and promotion.”
In addition, the firm has received endorsement by Reconciliation Australia for its “Reflect” Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP); something which Mr Hopkins called a “momentous milestone” for the firm. The RAP includes opportunities for staff to be a part of a RAP Working Group, participate in events for National Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC and hear from guest speakers at the firm throughout the year.
“We are strengthening relationships with stakeholders and organisations across our Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne offices and this encompasses our partnership with the Queensland Law Society on their Law Link program which has led into our Work Experience Program with students from Mabel Park State High School. A program we are continuing this year with a number of our key clients. Stemming from our RAP implementation, we are also taking the opportunity to review and update our internal policies and procedures, and our training, development and employment initiatives so that our internal platforms best meet requirements for a diverse and inclusive workplace at Carter Newell,” Mr Hopkins explained.
“As a firm, our collegiate culture has always been one of diversity and inclusivity. We see the implementation of our ‘Reflect’ Reconciliation Action Plan not only [as] an integral part of our internal strategy but more so, it provides an opportunity for our staff to grow their understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, protocols and events, and be part of a workplace that supports and celebrates diversity and inclusivity.”
Having initiatives like these has been critical for both firm culture and the attraction of staff, according to Mr Hopkins.
“What makes me proud is that regularly when I’m interviewing, lawyers at all levels are actively seeking to work with us because of our culture and D&I initiatives across the practice,” he added.
“All D&I efforts are incredibly rewarding for all the staff. Once you establish the focus areas, then it will be important to decide how those efforts can be embedded in the culture, through education, policies and programs, and continually talking to staff. D&I does require leaders to be vulnerable in order for others to feel comfortable in opening up and to feel a sense of belonging.”