Black History Month starts today with this year’s theme of 'Proud To Be'. The campaign encourages Black people to share their pride in their ethnicity and identity and be part of this month-long celebration of the incredible richness and diversity of Black heritage in the UK.


I. Stephanie Boyce

Throughout October, the Law Society will be sharing stories of Black lawyers from across the profession to align with this theme. I wholeheartedly encourage my Black colleagues to share their stories and experiences and celebrate their achievements and diversity.

This Black History Month comes just under a year after we published our Race for Inclusion report, which examined the experiences of Black, Asian and minority ethnic solicitors and offered suggestions on how we can build a more inclusive profession.

Our research, launched during the year of George Floyd’s death and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests, shone a light on the challenges Black, Asian and ethnic minority solicitors face.

The Black Lives Matter protests brought racial inequalities that persist around the world into sharp focus, and the movement has undoubtedly increased the emphasis on the issues in society, and the legal profession, and also provided the much-needed opportunity for reflection.

When I took up my role as office holder in 2019, I represented a couple of firsts. I am the first Black office holder and the first person of colour to hold the position of president of the Law Society.

As such, I hope to bring a fresh perspective – an understanding of the experiences of under-represented groups, and what we must to do to support them.

I also hope through my experiences, and that of many of our members, to provide proof that no matter what the challenge, or how insurmountable the odds appear to be, it is possible to succeed if you are determined and passionate.

Journey to the top of the profession

My journey into the profession wasn’t necessarily conventional or without its obstacles and I have long spoken about my own situation – I am the child of a single parent from an Afro-Caribbean working-class home who grew up on a council estate in Buckinghamshire. I am proud of, and proud to share, my experience.

In 1991, I returned to the UK having lived in the US for six years. I encountered my first barrier when I discovered my US qualifications would not be recognised in the UK.

However, thanks to the access to qualification route, I was able to enter London Guildhall University in 1996, where I graduated with an LLB (Hons) in politics. After that, I progressed to the Legal Practice Course at the College of Law in Guildford.

Obtaining a training contract wasn’t easy, but thanks to the steadfast encouragement of my father, Melvin, I secured a placement with a local Aylesbury firm, Horwood & James. I qualified in 2002 and joined my first in-house team a few year later.

When I took office as president in March 2021, diversity and inclusion was a top priority in my presidential plan.

Anyone with the necessary skills, knowledge and commitment to become a solicitor should be supported, enabled and empowered throughout their career. As president, I am passionate about the importance of social mobility, equality, diversity and inclusion.

Strides have been made, but more to be done

Although strides have been made in the profession for more diversity and equality in access and progression, it is clear that some of the same obstacles still remain and that there is work to be done.

It is important that leaders, especially those from minority groups, share their experiences, in a candid and honest way, about how they made it to where they are.

We shouldn’t shy away from talking about the difficult times and what has been learnt so far.

It is imperative that we talk openly and honestly to ensure we are creating a culture change in the organisations we work in, not just pursuing our own success.

Similarly, those who may not have faced those same challenges must come forward to act as champions for greater diversity and equality in the profession, shining a light on inequality where it exists and speaking out for change.

Visible role models are so important in giving others confidence and creating a sense of belonging in the profession. One or two individuals, who reach the top, will not make as much difference as having a profession, which at senior levels, is reflective of society as a whole.

We want to show that people from all walks of life and backgrounds can make valuable contributions and achieve success in our profession.

I hope you will all join me in marking Black History Month this year by sharing your story, taking pride in who you are and your contributions to our profession and, I also hope you take full advantage of this opportunity for reflection on what you can do to help improve equality and inclusion.

We all have a role in enacting change.


I. Stephanie Boyce is president of the Law Society