Diversity in the Legal Profession – The Law Society Diversity and Inclusion Charter Annual report

The Law Society Diversity and Inclusion Charter Annual report

The Law Society diversity and inclusion charter, launched in 2009, is the flagship diversity initiative of the legal profession[1]. It was designed to provide a model by which legal practices can make a public commitment to improve all aspects of equality, and each charter member has to commit to providing information for the annual report.

The 2011 report has just been published and represents more than a third of all solicitors in private practice and will be of great interest to employment lawyers, HR professionals and those who are responsible for the HR function in their law firm, as it provides a thought provoking overview of the diversity profiles of the legal workforce, summarised below.

A total of 159 law firms (the cohort) submitted returns to the 2011 Charter review and comprise a total of 72,645 staff. The report establishes that the majority of firms monitor ethnicity, gender, age and disability within their workforce. Over two-thirds now monitor these by role as recommended within the Law Society’s monitoring and reporting protocol.

Conclusions from the 2011 Annual Report

  • 43,160 women make up 63% of the whole workforce amongst the 159 law firms submitting a return to the Charter;
  • 59% of trainees (2,819) and 67% of other Legal Staff (5,159) are women;
  • The majority of non-legal staff roles (75%) are held by 20, 601 women;
  • Women make up 57% of solicitors, but account for a mere 23% of partners;
  • Women account for a greater proportion of the partnership in small firms (38%) compared to large firms (22%);
  • Across all firms (small and large) that monitor ethnicity by role, 9.8% of solicitors (1,732) and 4.4% of partners are from a Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background;
  • 9.8% of solicitors and 4.4% of partners are from BAME backgrounds;
  • The majority of partners are aged 35-44 (43.8% – 3,541) and 45-54 (37.5% – 3,035) compared to solicitors – the majority of who are aged 25-34 (69.2% – 12,004);
  • 2% of the whole cohort workforce (legal and non-legal staff) has a declared disability. 0.9% of solicitors in the cohort have a declared disability;
  •  The reported representation of the cohort workforce that are gay, lesbian or bisexual (1.7%) is broadly representative of the gay, lesbian and bisexual population across England and Wales;
  • Amongst staff that have stated their religion or belief, the largest group are Christians (35.6% – 16,635), followed by those with no religious beliefs (18.2% – 8,498);
  • Hindu staff, account for 1% of staff within the firms;
  • Muslim account for 1.1% of staff within the firms;
  • Jewish account for 1.1% of staff within the firms.

The results highlight the priority areas of focus for firms in 2012 including;

  • Focusing on achieving positive equality and diversity outcomes and ensuring policies are working successfully in practice;
  • Ensuring equality and diversity in all aspects of employment and staff development to meet the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 and Principle 9 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct;
  • Putting workforce monitoring in place to be able to report on individual’s role and their characteristics including: race, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion and belief and socio-economic status – in order to meet the requirements of the Legal Services Board statutory guidance.
  • Delivering equal pay;
  • Embedding responsibility for equality and diversity into everyone’s role;
  • Delivering web accessibility;
  • Using engagement with staff and communities as a lever for improving equality and diversity outcomes.

I would encourage solicitors, especially those with management responsibility, to review the full recommendations of the annual report, and to review the successful initiatives taken across a whole spectrum of law firms from large to small.

Philip Henson


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