Jun 17, 2021

Written By Jos Weale

Diversity in the legal sector

Jun 17, 2021

Written By Jos Weale

Diversity in the working world is all about combating discrimination in employment and promoting equality. Related to human rights law, it spans across all areas of working life, from recruitment and dismissal issues to treatment of the individual and minority groups in the workplace.

In the employment law context, the Equality Act 2010 outlines the framework of legislation to protect and enforce equality in the UK. All companies, including law firms, are obligated to adhere to equal employment guidelines, and the majority of modern law firms are now actively working on improving and promoting their diversity policies.

Aspects of diversity include:

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Diversity in the legal sector

Legal professions have traditionally been viewed as white, male and elitist, and pretty much closed off to anybody not fitting that bill. It’s a big barrier to break down, and there are arguably still a lot of issues to overcome. However, action is now being taken to tackle discrimination, open up the sector and create equal employment opportunities in the modern legal profession.

Law firms must uphold diversity requirements outlined by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the regulator for the solicitors’ profession in England and Wales, in their recruitment and within the workplace. The SRA works closely with a number of representative groups of protected characteristics, and states its public sector duties regarding diversity and equality to be as follows:

The Law Society carries out lot of work to support and spread word of the SRA’s regulations, and has divisions for ethnic minority lawyers, lawyers with disabilities, junior lawyers and women divisions dedicated to providing support to their members.

Diversity initiatives & societies

A number of representative groups are established within the legal sector. Here are a few which collaborate with the SRA and Law Society:

The rise of legal apprenticeships and talks about a possible “Solicitor Apprenticeship” to work alongside the traditional graduate route to becoming a lawyer is indication of a wave of change in the legal sector. Though it’s currently a whisper, there is potential for this route to become an established pathway, as in the accountancy profession – a big step for social mobility, encouraging those who may be put off by high course fees to pursue the profession.

Law diversity statistics

The Aspiring Lawyer Survey , conducted by AllAboutResearch in 2013, sampled 10,000 aspiring lawyers (either law students or non-law students) from the cvmailUK application system, and gives a taste of how diversity currently shapes up for young law applicants:

Sex

53% female

46% male

Age

16-20    36%

21-25    57%

26-36    4%

31-40   1%

Declined to answer 1%

Secondary School Status

Independent 23%

International 24%

State 48%

Declined to answer 5%

Ethnicity

Asian   13%

Black    4%

Chinese 5%

Mixed 4%

Other 2%

White (British) 56%

White (Irish) 2%

White (other) 12%

Declined to answer 2%

For more information about diversity in the legal sector, you can check out The Law Society website.

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