Luis Bulcao Pinheiro
14 December 2018

Brazil’s law firm association CESA, which is formed by 1,000 law firms from around the country, has launched a guide to further encourage pro-diversity practices in Brazilian law firms.

CESA’s guide is available on its website. It was published on 4 December during CESA’s 35th anniversary party, held in São Paulo. “Sharing good practices within law firms makes competition fairer and establishes a productive work environment,” says CESA president Carlos José Santos da Silva, who is a partner at Machado Meyer Advogados.   

The report contains several chapters, each authored by CESA member firms. “The document is an important source of information for law firms that invest in diversity as it can be used as a practical guide for those who wish to go deeper on the matter and understand the challenges and advantages of developing and implementing a diversity and inclusion programme,” says Mattos Filho, Veiga Filho, Marrey Jr e Quiroga Advogados' partner Flavia Regina de Souza Oliveira, who is also co-head of CESA’s committee for diversity and inclusion.

Oliveira and Laura Davis Mattar, who is Mattos Filho’s social responsibility coordinator, co-signed the guide’s introduction, which acknowledges that law firms and companies in Brazil have traditionally been constituted by one homogenous group (white, Catholic, heterosexual men, aged between 20 and 50 years old, who are not disabled). While Brazilian corporate culture embraces the concept of meritocracy, it does not take into account unequal access to higher education. “To change this reality and break this pattern, conscientious action is needed, as well as a real desire on behalf of an organisation and its people to promote diversity and inclusiveness in the work environment,” they write.

Despite women accounting for a majority in many law firms, it is still hard for women to reach the top of their career. Koury Lopes partners Tania Liberman, Fernanda Martins and Catarina Rattes author a chapter on gender diversity. “Eliminating gender inequality is crucial for the construction of an inclusive society, forming citizens who are respectful of human rights and free of prejudice,” they write.

Brazil was the last country in the world to abolish slavery, which it finally did in 1888. But the country’s black and indigenous population remains at a disadvantage. A chapter authored by Maria Elisa Verri, Clara Pacce Serva, Camila Araujo de Souza and Noemi Macedo from TozziniFreire Advogados calls for firms to have either a representative or a department promoting inclusion and equal opportunity on a continuous and consistent basis. “The responsibility to promote the eradication of the disparity coming from ethnic-racial prejudice should be practised by all,” they recommend.  

Fernanda Christina de Souza Rosa, Rana Moraz and Pedro Pessôa Filho from Stocche Forbes Advogados make the case for having working environments that are inclusive of people from the LGBTI+ community. “The promotion of sexual diversity and gender identity brings concrete benefits to business,” they say. But good practices for inclusion must go beyond the hiring process and include the establishment of a welcoming environment too. 

Sperling Advogados’ Felipe Garcia de Souza and Ana Carolina Cinoca Piovan make recommendations for firms to be mindful of different religious beliefs, which includes preserving the freedom to wear religious symbols and clothing and perform religious rituals. “Being committed to religious diversity in the workplace does not mean that different forms of beliefs will be ignored to avoid the discomfort of others, but rather that they will be celebrated and treated in a context of mutual respect,” they write.

Trench Rossi Watanabe’s Alberto Mori, who is also co-coordinator of CESA's diversity committee, contributed an article on age diversity. He urged firms to avoid the pitfalls of generational conflicts, arguing that the inclusion of both older people and younger people in the labour market is a determinant for a just society.

Brazilian law underscores the right of people with disabilities to be included in the workplace. Quotas vary from 2% to 5% of an organisation’s workforce, according to figures presented by Fabiana Loução Durães and Helena Rabethge, from Machado Meyer Advogados.Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go before people with disabilities are sufficiently represented in the work environment. Firms should make sure people with disabilities take part in activities and are assessed and promoted on the same basis as everyone else.

Demarest Advogados’ Luciana Cossermelli Tosnovsky and Sarah Gil Amaral say firms can implement a consistent diversity and inclusion programme by mapping diversity in their organisation, establishing priorities and partnerships and setting out measurable goals. They say CESA’s diversity guide is a tool for explaining the issue and promoting actions to “impact the working environment of law firms with practices that will help foster economic growth and sustainable development.”

Publication of the guide is the latest evidence that Brazilian firms are increasingly prioritising the promotion of diversity. Several have done so by establishing focus groups dedicated to protecting gender, racial and religious diversity. In November, Lefosse Advogados, which implemented its diversity programme at the beginning of the year, signed an initiative by the Afro-Brazilian Institute of Higher Education (Afrobras) to promote racial equality. Mattos Filho, Veiga Filho, Marrey Jr e Quiroga Advogados, which has a comprehensive diversity programme, also created an internal group to focus on the issue at the beginning of 2018. Demarest Advogados followed in August.

Diversity initiatives by firms in the rest of Latin America have largely just focused on gender diversity for now. Bragard Abogados in UruguayCarey in Chile, and Baker McKenzie (Mexico) are among those firms that have promoted gender diversity efforts this year. In Chile, which has among the fewest female partners in the region, six firms hosted the first Vance Center Women in the Profession event in Santiago at the beginning of the year.
 Latin Lawyer