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Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance
Responsible Business Insights<br />

Responsible Business Insights

Working towards a sustainable future

Reverse Mentoring: 2022 update from the Paris office

Our Reverse Mentoring initiative was launched  in Paris in 2020 to encourage and foster an ever more inclusive working environment. For two years, the project has enabled several partners, counsel, lawyers and members of Paris' senior business professionals to discover the experience of a more junior colleague (or one with a different background) within the office and to see how this might differ from their own lived experience.

What is the outcome of our Reverse Mentoring initiative following the launch in the Paris office in 2020?

On the occasion of the #BreakTheBias campaign as part of International Women's Day 2022, Delphine Siino Courtin (partner in charge of Diversity and Inclusion in Paris) and Jean-Charles Papin (Human Resources manager), both in charge of the implementation of Reverse Mentoring within the Paris office, give us their point of view on this initiative and the feedback received. 

Have you felt a strong interest towards this initiative from office members?

The initiative, launched in March 2020 has generated a lot of interest. Indeed, 3 months later in December 2020, we had formalised almost 20 "matches" -  and then about 30 pairs were created. Unfortunately, the various lockdowns were not very favourable towards Reverse Mentoring and a number of the pairs were put on standby, but the initiative is being revived with the physical return to the office and the close support from the Human Resources teams. Today we have about 30 matches, more or less active.

Have any mentors or mentees ever expressed fears to you, or have you had any fears of your own when implementing the Reverse Mentoring initiative?

The most frequently asked questions we had at the outset were from the "mentors", and in particular from the junior lawyers who were afraid that they would not be able to mentor a senior lawyer and in particular a partner, or at least that they did not have the authority. There were fears of not being able to say something due to concerns that it would be perceived badly, and a fear of not knowing what to say in order to fuel the discussion.

These fears were largely overcome as this initiative is aimed at changing the way we work to match the changing business environment on the basis of a complete transparency and confidentiality where hierarchy has no place.

In addition, the continuing change of culture and promotion of our values through the firm's Code of Conduct allows members of our firm to feel that they can be themselves and can speak up when they believe in our values of inclusion and diversity. This  resulted in the implementation of the Reverse Mentoring initiative being even more successful and inspiring, both at the level of the mentors and of the mentees.

Do you think this initiative allows us to #BreakTheBias between mentees and mentors? 

This initiative is part of the #BreakTheBias campaign because it enables two colleagues with different backgrounds or career paths to share their personal and professional experiences, to put them into perspective and to compare their ideas and points of view in a constructive manner. Reverse Mentoring also helps to create links between colleagues who do not have the opportunity to work together on a regular basis, and to break distances and possible barriers between lawyers and business professionals. This is essential in a world tormented by a pandemic that has forced us to isolate ourselves. And more specifically, for our female colleagues, whether they are lawyers or Business Professionals, Reverse Mentoring is a wonderful opportunity to make their voices heard in order to break certain stereotypes.

What are the objectives for the future?

We would like this initiative to last. Indeed, the matches can be changed over time. For example, a junior female associate can start by being a mentor for a partner and then, over time, become a mentee of another associate or business professional. Similarly, partners can be mentees of more junior lawyers but also of business professionals. We strongly believe that the initiative will be even more successful if it enables the participants to put different ideas and different approaches into perspective, always with the aim of continuing to build an increasingly inclusive environment where everyone can feel comfortable just being themselves. In short, we want every member of the office to be able to truly speak up to #BreakTheBias!