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Freshfields’ Annette Byron and Tim Wilkins recognised by Empower for leadership in advancing racial justice and equality

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (‘Freshfields’) partners Annette Byron and Tim Wilkins have been listed in the Empower (“Ethnic Minority Power”) Executives Role Model List 2022, for their dedication and leadership on issues of racial justice and equality.

“I am truly honoured for the recognition by Empower – which gives visibility to the ongoing work done at Freshfields, and by our peers, to strive for a more inclusive culture,” Annette said. “I am particularly proud this year to see the progress made at Freshfields on our global targets – which has seen a 67% increase in the number of Black associates, meaning the firm looks to be on track to reach its target by 2026. It’s critical we continue to identify outstanding potential and create a pathway for all individuals to realise their ambitions.”

Tim commented: “I am delighted to feature on Empower’s list of Role Models, particularly given my longstanding support for growing and developing a diverse talent pool of future leaders at Freshfields. It’s critical that we play a leadership role on issues of racial justice and equality and maintain a strategic focus on sustainable and inclusive growth.”

Annette Byron is a co-leader of the firm’s Global Black Affinity Network and partner sponsor for social mobility. She sits on the firm’s graduate recruitment panel and the cross-function social-mobility committee to further help those from non-traditional backgrounds join the firm and thrive. Annette is also a co-founder and the driving force of Freshfields’ Stephen Lawrence Scholarship Scheme, which seeks to address the disproportionate under-representation in large commercial law firms and other City institutions of black men from less socially mobile backgrounds.  

Annette has also helped shape the firm’s five-year diversity commitments and targets, including for race and ethnicity globally, to ensure the firm achieves diverse representation and maintains a focus on action and progress in this area. Annette further sponsors Freshfields’ ‘Future Leaders’ talent programme, which provides bespoke training supporting Black and ethnically diverse colleagues’ progression.

The first Black partner in the firm’s U.S. 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. Last year, he was appointed as the Chair of the Board of New York Public Radio, which aims to feature a diverse range of voices to report on, and be represented in, its news stories and features on music, arts and culture.  Previously, Tim has served on the NYC Economic Development Association (appointed by the Mayor of New York City), New York Public Theatre (Co-chair of Governance) and the Opportunity Agenda (Chair of Steering Committee). He also co-founded the New York Circular City Initiative, a programme to develop a circular economic system that promotes greater employment and a greener environment for the New York City, including its less advantaged neighbourhoods.

Empower – or ‘Ethnic Minority’ Power – is a membership initiative driving the empowerment of ethnic minority employees within corporate organisations. More information can be found here.

Further info on Freshfields’ recently published D&I Annual Review 2022 can be found here.