Capacity Inclusion: A Q&A with Hogan Lovells’ Owen Chan

In this interview, Karry Lai, Editor-in-Chief of IFLR Asia, talks to Owen Chan, Executive Sponsor of Hogan Lovell’s Global Disability and Inclusion Network and Managing Partner at Hong Kong SAR, about inclusion challenges and best practices capacity for the legal profession

Thanks for talking to me Owen. Can you start by telling us a bit about the firm’s Global Disability and Inclusion Network (GAIN)?

As a company, we underscored our commitment to capability inclusion by elevating it to a global priority diversity identity in 2021, accelerating our progress from our regional initiatives, and committing to several actions , in line with our commitment to The Valuable 500. By joining, we have become members of the largest network of global companies dedicated to diversity and have demonstrated our commitment to driving change and embedding disability inclusion throughout of the company.

In December 2021, the firm marked the International Day of Persons with Disabilities by launching its new Global Disability and Inclusion Network (GAIN). This network provides a forum for colleagues with disabilities, as well as those who are allies and carers of people with disabilities, and allows them to build communities with each other. GAIN reinforces our commitment to fostering an inclusive workplace for our colleagues with disabilities, both apparent and non-apparent, so that everyone within the firm can thrive by being authentic themselves.

An organization’s culture and advancement in the modern world is partly defined and reflected by its ability to include people with different abilities and help them thrive. I want to be part of an organization that fosters such inclusion and it makes me proud to share with our people the successes it brings.

What motivated you to be an executive sponsor of GAIN?

I have always been very passionate about our people and their development within our organization, and have consciously championed many of our global and regional diversity efforts. Disability is an area that we don’t tend to talk about much in our industry yet many may need commitment and support in their work and career development with us. I want to increase awareness of these needs within our industry and organization, and help create an inclusive environment for people of all abilities.

Why the company chosen to focus on capacity inclusion?

Choosing to focus on ability inclusion allows us to be more aware as a business of different types of apparent and unapparent disabilities, helping us to be a more responsible business. We are ready to act and react in different situations when interacting with people with disabilities, avoiding unnecessary inconvenience and offense. Through increased awareness, we are more inclusive in our environment and better prepared to engage with talent, our colleagues and our customers. Most people acquire disabilities during their lifetime, so this inclusive leadership skill supports professional and personal growth.

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What is GAIN’s goal?

We recognize that disabilities can be experienced in many different forms. GAIN aims to support all staff with apparent and non-apparent disabilities and individuals who identify as caregivers or allies of persons with disabilities.

Hogan Lovells has more than 40 internal networks and affinity groups around the world, which enable our employees to support each other across many identities, intersectionalities and issues, to address issues that affect them, to engage in business and customer development activities and better navigate. the company. A key driver of our diversity and inclusion strategy, these networks deliver substantive programs, raise awareness and engage in customer partnerships. We consider that GAIN plays an essential role within the framework of this global network.

What are some of the challenges that members of the legal profession have encountered in terms of capacity inclusion?

Disclosure is one of the most often cited challenges when it comes to employing people with different abilities in the legal industry. Across the industry, some people are reluctant to disclose a disability for fear of potential discrimination or negative career impacts. This may be particularly common in the private practice environment of the legal sector due to the competitive nature of working in an environment that places a strong emphasis on high performance and may have a narrow conception of the profile of a legal professional. successful law.

In these environments, organizations may have misconceptions about what is needed to provide reasonable accommodations or support to colleagues with disabilities. With lower disclosure rates, law firms are often unaware of the makeup of their disability business. Having fewer role models only reinforces the problem of disclosure among entry-level and lateral recruits, leading to lower rates of hiring people with disabilities.

Another disclosure issue is that there are jurisdictional differences related to requesting and recording sensitive personal information. Like other multinational companies, law firms must address these challenges with sensitivity depending on the different jurisdictions in which they operate. It is essential to develop cultural fluency and a willingness to understand the different needs of people with disabilities and to be flexible in meeting those different needs.

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How can the legal profession contribute to improving the inclusion of persons with disabilities?

Law firms and their clients can help raise awareness levels and advocate for the importance of disability inclusion. This will help overcome or reduce attitudinal barriers or stigma associated with disclosing a disability, as well as any perceived barriers to entering the legal profession.

For law firms, this change can be achieved internally by fostering an inclusive and transparent culture where people feel they can safely disclose their disability, and where allies and caregivers feel empowered. comfortable talking about their own lived experiences and perspectives, and advocating publicly for others. Cultivating a network of high-level role models and allies can increase comfort levels and reduce isolation for individuals in the workplace. Building leadership skills is also important to ensure a positive employee experience.

Change can also be driven externally, by collaborating with clients who enjoy working with a diverse legal team with different abilities. We know that having a diverse set of perspectives, skills and experiences leads to better legal solutions, so ultimately it will help drive better business results and serve to positively impact the community by ensuring that the demographics of our workforce better reflect the demographics of society as a whole.

What are the best practices that can help promote disability inclusion in the workplace?

Law firms can help cultivate greater acceptance of all abilities by applying a diversity and inclusion lens to all corporate policies, practices, programs, and procedures, including but not limited to limit, those that have an impact on hiring, development, retention and advancement. Law firms can also help reduce stigma and promote awareness of different abilities by creating networks, such as GAIN, which provides a community for individuals to share their lived experiences, support each other and learn from each other. others. To create a culture of tolerance and inclusion, it is essential to educate our colleagues about the importance of disability inclusion and how to be an effective ally.

Some of our educational initiatives are implementing global training on implicit bias, including follow-up regional conversations on implicit bias; developing inclusive communication education sessions to help our colleagues communicate fluently about diversity and inclusion around the world; and implement bias switch training for leaders in the context of talent management and promotional discussions, and mitigate the impact of unconscious bias on underrepresented people and their career advancement.

Across APAC, we have implemented a regional program called Inclusion Allies that aims to encourage individuals to reflect on their own biases and behaviors, and help advocate for a more inclusive culture at the local office level. . We also continue to work with disability advocates through our responsible business practice to ensure that we better serve the community and use our professional expertise to advocate for justice and equity on behalf of people with disabilities. We also regularly review our internal HR database to ensure that we capture personal identifying information accurately and as broadly as possible, and we plan a global campaign to encourage greater self-identification, where required by law. allows us to better understand the composition of our company and best support our colleagues with disabilities.

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