The judiciary still has far to travel to get more solicitors on to the bench, a senior judge has said following publication of the judiciary’s diversity action plan for the next 12 months.
Lady Justice Heather Hallett, chair of the judicial diversity committee of the Judges’ Council, noted there had been some progress on gender diversity between April 2015 and March 2016.
However, she acknowledged the judiciary ‘still has some way to go in increasing both its ethnic diversity and the representation of solicitors in the courts and tribunals’.
A progress report breaks down the background of those who have participated in the judiciary’s numerous diversity initiatives.
Solicitors made up more half of the 132 delegates who attended a networking event in London in November last year and a similar proportion of the 46 delegates who attended an event in Newcastle last month.
More than two-thirds (353) of applicants for the judicial work shadowing scheme over the past 12 months were solicitors. Of the solicitors, barristers and legal executives who applied, 324 were employed by a law firm or were a member of chambers, 31 were Government Legal Service lawyers, and 23 were Crown Prosecution Service lawyers. Applicants had on average 16 years’ post-qualification experience.
There are currently 163 judicial role models. Of those who provided diversity information, 133 are white, 78 are women and 21 are BAME (black, asian or minority ethnic).
A positive action judicial mentoring scheme is currently helping 110 mentees. Of the 56 who applied in the last 12 months and provided diversity information, 41 were solicitors.
Of those selected to a dedicated support programme for deputy high court judges, 15 of the 30 participants were solicitors.
Over the past few weeks the House of Lords constitution committee heard from senior legal figures, including Law Society president Robert Bourns and Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger, about the challenges faced by the judiciary trying to recruit solicitors.
Hallett said the committee recognises ’we have more to do’.
Over the next 12 months, the committee will work with the Law Society, Bar Council and CILEx to ensure it reaches the ‘broadest range of talent’.
The committee will also continue dialogue with BAME lawyers to better understand the barriers they face, encourage more networking, run more workshops and ‘further develop’ communications to potential candidates and those interested in judicial diversity.