As the workplace evolves, many leaders have come to understand that they don’t need to choose between diversity and profitability; by embedding DEI values at the heart of their organisations, they can reap the rewards of both. Angela Ogilvie, Chief Human Resources Officer at Linklaters, understands this more than most, as she drives her firm towards becoming one of the most progressive in the legal field.
In this edition of The Interview, Angela sat down with Chris Mansfield, Co-founder of Goodcourse, to discuss topics ranging from the importance of DEI in the legal profession to the challenges of creating an inclusive company culture.
I joined Linklaters as an HR graduate — quite a few years ago! Since then, I’ve held numerous roles across the HR team, from graduate recruitment to various business partner roles, including leading our partner HR team. Nearly four years ago, I took on the role of Chief Human Resources Officer. Linklaters is a fantastic place to work, full of amazing, driven individuals working together to give the best advice to corporate and financial institutions. It’s very much a global organisation, so there are lots of opportunities if you are willing to try new things and stretch yourself. It’s challenging but also highly rewarding.
In my final year of university, I specialised in people management. I was interested in the psychological element as well as the business angle. After university, I managed to secure a graduate role at Linklaters, and I’ve really grown up with the firm. I’ve always been quite ambitious, so when the lead HR opportunity opened up, I was delighted to be chosen. It felt like a natural progression for me.
It’s definitely moved more towards the role of being a trusted advisor. I think the pandemic brought HR to the forefront: people needed advice about how to deal with the changes, whether it was about managing the needs of remote working or transitioning to the world of hybrid work. For HR professionals, the variety of demands has changed, but that only provides more opportunities for growth.
Actually, I think it’s four years now! DEI is a key strategic priority for Linklaters. We are promoting six strands of diversity: gender, race and ethnicity, social mobility, LGBTQ+, age and life stage, and diversibilities. For each of those priorities, we appoint a member of our executive committee to help drive the firm’s agenda forward. For example, I am a representative for the LGBTQ+ strand: I feel very passionate about it, as we see the erosion of hard-won rights in some parts of the world. But I’m looking forward to Pride Month, and we have some exciting plans. The purpose of these strands is to ensure the proportional representation of under-represented groups and the equality of opportunity in the workplace. We want to embed DEI at all stages of the career life cycle. To achieve that, we’re looking at our social impact programmes, and opening alternative entry routes into the legal profession. We’re delighted to announce that we will be taking on solicitor apprentices for the first time this year. We’re also looking at our recruitment and retention strategies to progress diverse talent through the firm and ensure senior-level representation. That’s been paying off — in February 2023, we welcomed the first female senior partner in our firm’s history. There are a lot of initiatives going on, but our ambition is to create an environment that’s inclusive and welcoming to all.
We recently launched a new anti-bullying module called “Is It Okay?” That was designed to show our commitment to an environment free from harassment and to show staff what to do if they encounter it. We’ve also introduced flexible bank holidays for employees to recognise the wide range of faiths and cultures at our firm. Finally, we’re advocating sponsorship, including programs for women and under-represented minority groups, as well as a reverse-mentoring scheme for our senior staff.
Having members of our executive committee act as champions for different strands of diversity demonstrates the strategic importance of DEI for our firm. We have prioritised collecting diversity data and analysing it through the lens of DEI. Data can help us ensure everyone is included and provide a level playing field.
Last year, we began to include DEI work in our billable hours. We want to encourage people to get involved in our DEI commitments. Often, people from under-represented backgrounds end up taking the lead in these initiatives, but that shouldn’t be an expectation. Our teams have welcomed that their DEI contributions have been recognised, and more and more people are getting involved. It’s brilliant to see our initiatives being so well-received.
Seize every opportunity. There’s so much to see and learn. Make sure you build relationships, both with your firm and with your clients. Challenge yourself, and never be afraid to take risks.