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Freshfields' Annette Byron and Tim Wilkins recognised by Empower for their impactful leadership in championing racial justice and equality

Global law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (‘Freshfields’) partners Annette Byron and Tim Wilkins have received their seventh inclusion in the Empower Executives Role Model List 2024. They have been acknowledged by Empower ("Ethnic Minority Power") in previous years for their commitment and leadership in promoting racial justice and equality. 

“It is a privilege to feature on Empower’s list of Role Models,” Byron comments. "This acknowledgment holds particular significance, considering our longstanding commitment to nurturing a diverse talent pool of future leaders at Freshfields. It's imperative that we maintain focus on matters of racial justice and equality through ensuring sustainable change." 

"I am delighted to be recognised by Empower once again," remarks Wilkins. "It’s been a pleasure to work with remarkable colleagues dedicated to the importance of diversity in continuing to shape the rich experience of working in our firm as well as the excellence that we can offer our clients.  I am also proud how we have expanded our efforts to include the communities where we work by offering mentoring and other novel educational opportunities.” 

Byron and Wilkins are co-founders of the Freshfields Global Black Affinity Network (BAN), which brings together lawyers and business service professionals to promote a firm-wide sense of community, increase hiring and inclusion, and support training initiatives. They 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. 

Byron is actively involved in shaping the firm’s five-year diversity commitments and targets, including for race and ethnicity globally, sitting on the firm’s graduate recruitment panel and the cross-functional social-mobility committee to further help those from non-traditional backgrounds join the firm and thrive. She is the driving force behind 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.  

In addition, Byron sponsors Freshfields’ ‘Future Leaders’ talent programme, which provides bespoke training supporting Black and ethnically diverse colleagues’ progression. As a signatory of the Race at Work Charter and a speaker at prestigious forums, Byron continues to drive change, earning accolades like the Investing in Ethnicity Awards for Freshfields' commitment to diversity and inclusion. 

Wilkins leads Freshfields’ global practice on client sustainability to advise on issues related to climate change, human rights, sustainable finance, and corporate governance. The practice spans all of the firm’s practice groups as well as international jurisdictions.  He has also pioneered numerous initiatives to support people from a number of racial and ethnic backgrounds, including spearheading the firm’s participation in the Legal Outreach programme which provides internships to ethnically diverse New York City high school students. 

Wilkins’ commitment to public service is also evident through serving on a number of non-profit boards, including chairing the New York Public Radio Board.  In addition, he teaches various sustainability topics as a Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown Law School. 

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’ Responsible Business Report 2023 can be found here