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Mark Kirkland
By
May 23, 2019

Equality vs Opportunity – K3 Culture by Mark Kirkland

  Legal

I have always believed in the power of people. Give the right people opportunity and responsibility and the results almost always exceed expectations.

 

Responsibility is a vital ingredient. Experience demonstrates to me that the more responsibility you give a person the more responsibility they will take. The opposite is equally true.

I define opportunity as “a situation or conditions favourable for the attainment of advancement or a goal”.

 

As a director I try to provide the people in the K3 group with as much opportunity as I am able to conceive. I am not trying to achieve an equality of outcomes or any particular diversity goal, but to get the best out of each person individually.

 

Does this mean that everyone in the K3 group should get the same or equal opportunities? The socialist part of me would argue in favour of this proposition but on the ground it can be difficult to implement. For example, the opportunity for a receptionist to graduate to a legal secretary role is fundamentally different from a senior lawyer moving to be a business owner and needs to be crafted accordingly.

 

Having said that we have receptionists, legal secretaries and PA’s who are taking papers in law and in management.

 

It is critical to listen to what an individual actually wants. Some want ownership opportunities, some education and some experience and so on. The situation and conditions for opportunity are limitless.

 

In my view the worst thing that you can do is to offer an opportunity to someone who doesn’t want it. As they say “you can lead a horse to water” but getting it to drink is a different matter.

I have witnessed many situations where round pegs have been forced into square holes. If you don’t match the people to the opportunities, then they are doomed to failure from the outset.

 

For example, when offering the opportunity to undertake a legal executive diploma, does your employee understand that it will take years of work, study, exams and stress to achieve? Opportunity needs to be communicated both ways and tailored for success.

 

The current social trend towards the promotion of diversity is laudable but in my view the way in which organisations are delivering it is flawed. For example, the trend to sign up to gender quota policies to achieve equality in outcomes e.g. gender equal board representation, in my view fails to account for:

 

1. choice of the individual;

2. diversity of organisations themselves;

3. other diversity factors including age, race, culture, religion, economic beliefs, political beliefs, height, disability and many more;

4. the fact that we each are made up of the infinite factors that make us uniquely different from any other human on the planet.

 

Given each one of us is uniquely different it is difficult to define and select a particular group of people in order to promote their diversity. For example, gender and sexuality are now fluid, age is not what it used to be, race and cultures are often mixed and misunderstood.

 

I do not personally believe in promoting diversity on the basis of arbitrary groupings. Firstly, it limits the diversity potential of each individual and secondly it can, by consequence, unfairly exclude others.

 

The fairest methodology, in my view, is to treat people as unique individuals and to promote opportunity in a tailored way. One of the principles in the K3 Legal partnership agreement reflects this: “Each Partner shall excel in his/her talents and shall encourage those of his/her Partners and colleagues”.

 

By implementing this principle each individual in an organisation can climb towards their unlimited potential and diversity will flower as a result.

 

This approach has worked in K3 Legal where we have a board of directors consisting of 4 men and 3 women (soon to be 4 and 4). There is also diversity in our senior leadership group that reflects K3’s goal of creating a firm that is a genuine combination of Western and Eastern philosophies and practices.

 

This diversity has been achieved by giving individuals “a shot at the title” i.e. opportunity.

Key to this approach is respect. To quote an age-old tenet “treat people in the way you wish to be treated”.

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