Freshfields’ reverse mentoring programme, 'Diverse Perspectives', connects junior and mid-level colleagues who identify as belonging to an underrepresented group within the firm, with a senior colleague.
The global reverse mentoring programme pairs a more junior mentor with a more senior mentee, offering an opportunity for junior individual voices to be heard, and build relationships with the firm's leadership. The programme also helps build diversity of thought, promoting innovation, idea generation and novel approaches to solving complex problems.
Junior mentors can be anyone who identifies with being from an under-represented group within their region or jurisdiction; the aim is to bring colleagues together who may not ever have a conversation and broaden the dialogue across the firm.
Many of the junior mentors are members of the firm’s affinity networks including our Black Affinity Network, HALO, our women’s networks, our Mental Health Affinity Network, Freshfields Enabled, and our Social Mobility Network.
The programme is open to all colleagues in every office across the firm. Our 2021 cohort featured 52 pairs from 16 offices across all of our regions – a truly global programme.
Insights, engagement and network-building
Unlike traditional ‘top-down’ mentoring, reverse mentoring offers more senior professionals a chance to seek guidance and input from more junior colleagues, see the workplace through their eyes and gain a wider perspective on Freshfields culture.
As well as diversity and inclusion, the programme offers participants a chance to focus on professional development, and learn more about topics such as client relationships, innovation and technology.
Freshfields Senior Associate Andre van Zyl Gow has been a reverse mentor to Freshfields Partner Jennifer Bethlehem. ‘Working with Jennifer through the reverse mentoring scheme allowed me to get a much more detailed insight of the business case for the firm’s diversity and inclusion strategy from our clients’ perspective,’ Andre says. ‘It was great to get such positive engagement and support at partner level, and also to build my network within the firm.’
Product Development Specialist Emily Hopkins was paired with partner Richard Bird: ‘The programme was a great opportunity to speak to someone outside of my own peer group and echo chamber. It allowed me to have open, honest and candid conversations about issues that affect so many people and discuss tangible ways that the firm can work to better support its diverse staff. It was great to have these conversations with someone in a more senior position in the firm and to hear positive and insightful thoughts about the topics I raised.’
Associate Elizabeth Sangobiyi mentored senior partner Georgia Dawson: ‘Whilst the programme opened the door for dialogue between Georgia and I, it also gave me the tools and confidence to realise that I don’t necessarily need a platform to have an open and honest conversation with other senior members of the firm. Junior colleagues should not be afraid to be honest about things they are aware of and senior colleagues must be open to constructive feedback. It is an experience I highly recommend, as there are benefits to all people involved.’