diversity, inclusion, equality, gender, equity, race, culture


The Article has three parts: the first reviews the data showing women’s increased participation in the legal sector and assesses why increased participation has not led to inclusion at senior levels. The main barriers are macro and micro processes of social reproduction, poor access to mentors and influential business networks, and gender bias in society at large.

In the second part, the response by large law firms is assessed. This has largely consisted of “business case” approaches to diversity management. The key characteristics of these approaches are presented, as is an overview of key practices adopted by large law firms.

In the third and final part, an assessment is made of these responses to address the issues identified in the first part. This Article finds that the responses are inadequate in scope, focus, and intention, and as such, they constitute “empty shell” approaches to equality of opportunity and diversity. The Article concludes that large law firms, rather than tackle the deep-rooted and systemic factors that combine to produce discrimination, opt instead for an approach in which they are “busy doing nothing,” appearing to tackle the issue, but leaving the status quo unchallenged and unchecked.