The Labour party’s report Judicial Diversity: Accelerating Change stated that a quota system should be introduced to address the under-representation of women and ethnic minorities in the senior judiciary (see tinyurl.com/ksckmgg). While the call to action should be applauded, it also raises questions over whether quotas/targets are the best way to address the diversity problem in both the judiciary and legal sector as a whole.
Several law firms have also recently introduced targets/quotas in the last six months. And while it is evident that the current system is too slow and more needs to be done, at Wedlake Bell we advocate and utilise a purely merit-based system which has served us well: 34% of our partners are women; 50% of our board with voting rights are women; and 75% of our practice heads are women.
Survey results suggest that quotas are far from universally supported by female solicitors and I can see why. No one, male or female, wants their promotion to result from or be regarded as caused by anything other than their own merits and effort. Something I imagine the judiciary may believe as well.
Instead of targets we should urge all of us – the entire legal and judiciary system – to proactively create and develop a culture of inclusiveness and diversity through merit. And not just by talking about it, but by making it an inherent value and ethos.
Simon de Galleani, senior partner, Wedlake Bell