Guest blog by Karl Brown FRSA, UWE Bristol Law alum and Faculty Advisory Board member.
I am a Commercial Property Partner in the Bristol office of national law firm Clarke Willmott LLP. I am proud to not only be Bristol born and bred but also very proud of my Jamaican heritage. My parents came to the UK in the early 1960s from Jamaica and my dad was a plasterer and my mum was a nurse. The example of my parents gave me a good work ethic but also a desire to make positive change by boosting social mobility and diversity in our professions. I found it very difficult to get a training contract (and ended up making over 100 applications) but through a combination of determination and also mentoring I eventually managed to get a training contract.
My personal experiences mean giving back to young people from less privileged backgrounds is important to me and is why I became a social mobility ambassador for the Law Society in 2016. In my role as a social mobility ambassador, I have given various careers presentations both in-person (pre-pandemic) and also online to show young people from underrepresented backgrounds that they can with the right attitude and work ethic have a career in law.
I firmly believe that it is only through collaboration between the business world and education institutions that we have any chance of reaching out to young people from a range of different backgrounds and inspiring them to try and achieve their desired careers. This is why I was very proud in 2015 to be a founder member of the Bristol Learning City Partnership Board working alongside headteachers from schools in Bristol to try to formulate policies that work both for schools and also local business. And it is also why in my current role on UWE Bristol’s Faculty of Business and Law Advisory Board I always try and give the perspective of the business world when discussing ideas/proposed policies for the faculty. These roles have also I think made me a better solicitor and business leader as they have increased not only my range of soft skills but my understanding of how the world of business can best attract and develop talent.
Collaboration between businesses within a sector is also key if positive change is to be brought to that sector. I founded the Bristol Property Inclusion Charter (“the Charter”) in 2019 to boost diversity and inclusion in the Bristol property sector. Through research and also through my own networking as a property solicitor, I could see that the Bristol property sector was not as diverse as it could be given the wider diversity in the Bristol population. Another driver in my desire to bring positive change to the property industry was having seen my dad who like many other west Indian immigrants and immigrants from other countries in the past found a skilled trade in the property industry which enabled my dad and others to not only make a positive contribution to the UK economy but also to give a good start in life to their children.
The Charter has seven objectives which in summary include trying to open up opportunities in the Bristol property sector and collaboration to bring transformative change. The running of the Charter is through the Bristol Property Inclusion Commission which I founded in early 2020 and I sit on the commission as Chair alongside representatives from other parts of the property industry. In 2016 the Charter had about fifteen signatory companies/organisations but today we have sixty-six which include YTL, Live West, Bristol City Council, Avison Young, Redrow, Galliard Homes, Grainger plc and Elim Housing.
I would just conclude by making a confession. If you speak to my wife she will tell you that I am an avid follower of the news and in particular love watching CNN. It was watching CNN last year that I saw someone mention an old African proverb and as soon as I heard it I thought I would use it in speeches and articles. The proverb is “If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far go together.” If we work together then I firmly believe we can bring positive change to professions such as law and also to sectors such as property.