Making a difference? The use (and abuse) of diversity management at the UK’s elite law firms

Louise Ashley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The UK’s elite law firms have recently seen a shift from talking about equality of opportunity alone to the adoption of a diversity discourse as well. This article examines this transition for what it can tell us about the value of diversity strategies as a means for widening access to the corporate legal profession on the basis of social class, focusing on five elite law firms based in the City of London. A number of studies have demonstrated how cultural practices within the legal sector maintain exclusionary mechanisms based on class. There has been less attention to how this is sustained within an amended institutional framework which outwardly ‘celebrates’ difference. This research suggests that though diversity strategies do little to change organisational cultures, those that recognise both the depth of professional prejudice within the sector and the reality of educational inequality across the UK may prove relatively progressive nonetheless.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)711-727
JournalWork, Employment and Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Cite this