Diversity in law is pretty important, right? Human rights and employment law combine to attempt to combat discrimination in employment, recruitment and dismissals and promote equality in the workplace.
The legal industry itself has recently found itself in hot water over diversity, after it was found that female lawyers are paid £10,000 less than male lawyers. This has resulted in the Labour Party proposing judicial quotas, but what exists already to ensure the profession is as diverse as it possibly can be?
Well, the Law Society, have three broad principles, which they list as: Inclusive, meaning that people working in law should reflect society. So it would make sense that 50% of lawyers are men, 50% women, as there is roughly a 50/50 split of these two groups in society. The Law Society also wish the industry to be responsive and able to service all sections of society, not just the rich geezers who can afford to pay the ever-increasingly hourly rates. Finally, the Society hope the industry to be full of good employers, who recruit on merit and don’t just hire the kids of the managing partners who went to Eton and Oxbridge.
Diversity & inclusion charter
The Diversity and Inclusion Charter intends to help law firms turn their commitment into action. The Law Society helps firms measure their procedures against diversity and inclusion standards. A whopping 300 firms have signed up to the Charter.
In practice, this means that firms make sure that their recruitment, retention, career progression or training and development is constantly improving to better the opportunities for those who have or wish to pursue a career in the industry.
Whether it's through recruitment, retention, career progression or training and development, all our signatories are committed to improving opportunities for people in the legal profession, regardless of their background or circumstances. Each firm complete an annual survey to find how well they’re doing with regard to their commitments and identify where they need to brush up. The Law Society publishes aggregate results to identify trends, successes and areas to improve. Firms also have to submit diversity stats.
Why should firms bother?
Why not keep hiring Oxbridge grads whose parents know the parents of the senior partner? Well, other than it being a nice and humane thing to do, it’s also the law and allows firms to access a wider recruitment pool through initiatives such as legal apprenticeships and school leaver programmes.
Any diversity case studies?
Of course! The Law Society’s website has a bloomin’ long list of how large and small firms alike are demonstrating a good practice of diversity and inclusion. Some of our favourites include Irwin Mitchell, whose percentage of female partners are now steadily increasing and now stands at 30%, with 75% of partners promoted internally were female. On top of this, the firm completed an equal pay audit. Round of applause for Irwin Mitchell everybody!
Not bad at all, eh? And it’s great for students from all backgrounds to know that law isn’t the old boys club it’s often viewed as, with firms encouraged by independent bodies such as the Law Society!