Partners Annette Byron and Timothy Wilkins named to 2020 EMpower Ethnic Minority Role Model Lists Freshfields partners Annette Byron and Timothy Wilkins, leaders on issues of racial justice and equality, have been recognized for their significant contributions to efforts that remove barriers and create greater opportunity.
Both were named to EMpower’s list of 100 Ethnic Minority Executives 2020 released today, with Tim ranked No. 16—the top-ranked lawyer on the list—and Annette ranked No. 46. “I feel an enormous sense of responsibility—both as one of few black partners at a large law firm and as the global leader for my firm on client sustainability,” said Tim.
“The recent tragic killings of unarmed black men and women at the hands of law enforcement in the US has made it clear that, without justice for black Americans, and other racial minority people around the world, there can be neither a prosperous recovery nor a sustainable future.” “Receiving this honor is an inspiration to continue to grow the firm’s work to improve social mobility at a time when the coronavirus has hit black communities particularly hard,” said Annette.
“Without proactive engagement by business and society, I fear we may lose a generation of talented young men and women just when we need their fresh, innovative ideas the most.”
Annette is Freshfields’ partner sponsor for social mobility and sits on the London office graduate recruitment panel and cross-function social mobility committee aimed at helping those from underrepresented backgrounds thrive at the firm. She drives the award-winning Freshfields Stephen Lawrence Scholarship scheme, a recruitment, development and mentoring initiative run jointly by volunteers from Freshfields and its clients, which seeks to address the disproportionate under-representation of black men from less socially mobile backgrounds in large commercial law firms and some business sectors.
Annette has also served on the board of PRIME, the legal sector charity alliance committed to improving access to those from less socially mobile backgrounds. The first black partner in the firm’s US offices, Tim leads Freshfields’ global practice on client sustainability to advise on issues related to climate change, human rights, sustainable finance and corporate governance.
He also has pioneered numerous initiatives—inside and outside the firm—to support black colleagues and people of color, including founding 12 years ago the firm’s collaboration with Legal Outreach, a mentoring program for New York City public high school students to provide college prep and professional experiences. Tim also works to support black and minority ethnic communities more broadly through his board positions with the NYC Economic Development Association (appointed by the Mayor of New York City), New York Public Radio (Vice-Chair), and New York Public Theatre (Co-chair of Governance). He also co-founded the New York Circular City Initiative, a program to develop a circular economic system that promotes greater employment and a greener environment for the New York City, including its less advantaged neighbourhoods.
Annette and Tim are co-founders of the Freshfields Global Black Affinity Network (BAN) that brings together lawyers and legal professionals to promote firm-wide a sense of community, increase hiring and inclusion and support training initiatives.
Tim and Annette have also used their respective platforms as lawyers and thought leaders to speak and write about important issues at the intersection of diversity, social mobility and sustainability. They are contributors to the Freshfields Sustainability and Human Rights blog, including their recent co-authored article calling attention to the disparate impact of Covid-19 on black and ethnic minorities and Tim’s article on the role of business in the battle for racial justice and equality in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd. “I was thrilled to see Annette and Tim honoured again in this way,” said Freshfields Senior Partner, Edward Braham.
“They both have long been at the forefront of pressing and supporting the firm to improve its own record on hiring and retaining black lawyers and legal professionals as well as engaging with the communities where we work to offer educational and professional opportunities.” EMpower – or ‘Ethnic Minority’ Power – is a membership initiative driving the empowerment of ethnic minority employees within corporate organisations.
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