London Stock Exchange-listed insurance provider Hiscox is to put diversity and inclusion (D&I) criteria into its law firm RFPs next year, led by group head of claims supplier management, Andrew Sellers.
Sellers, who is an LGBT Insurance Network role model, told a packed room at Thomson Reuters’ Transforming Women’s Leadership in Law conference on Tuesday 2 April: “Last year during our annual governance meetings we told all of our UK law firms that diversity and inclusion is squarely on our agenda. This year is about planning – collaborative planning – and next year will be about delivering agreed objectives.”
Law firms will have an opportunity to help shape the D&I expectations and Sellers said: “The challenge is what does ‘good’ look like, and when we know the answer, we will feed that into our RFPs. We will be, as part of our new focus, inviting heads of D&I to talk to the Hiscox team as part of the tender process and we will also be speaking to other people from across the law firms – not just the senior partners. This is an active and on-going collaborative discussion: finger wagging won’t move the dial.”
This is part of a growing trend towards clients using their purse to exert pressure on law firms to improve their D&I ratios. In an open letter to big law firms signed by 170 general counsel and chief legal officers at the start of the year, companies from across multiple industries including the likes of Google and Heineken USA accused law firms of remaining “largely male and largely white”, saying: “We, as a group, will direct our substantial outside counsel spend to those law firms that manifest results with respect to diversity and inclusion, in addition to providing the highest degree of quality representation.”
However, Sellers said: “I applaud the sentiment, but having lots of GCs signing letters on D&I just isn’t enough to effect cultural challenges. I prefer to engage with our law firms directly – face to face.”
And, raising the bar on the in-house commitment to drive change, he adds: “There is a claims supply chain D&I objective in my own performance review this year and if I don’t deliver, then I’m pretty sure there will be a consequence of that. A financial consequence.”
The Thomson Reuters event was held under the Chatham House Rule, but we have approval to use the above quotes. We are an active supporter of diversity initiatives in the legal and legal technology sector, for further commentary please contact editor Caroline Hill, email@example.com