Chambers will be able to publish anonymised data about their members’ sexual orientation and religious beliefs without the unanimous consent of members following a successful application by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) to the Legal Services Board.
At the moment, chambers are not allowed to share this information unless barristers, pupils, staff and mini-pupils all give their approval.
Data pertaining to gender, race, disability and socio-economic background may already be shared without unanimous consent and the BSB said it wanted ‘a consistent approach across all diversity characteristics’.
However where there is a ‘real risk’ that individuals could be identified, diversity officers must acquire the consent of those affected, the BSB added. On average, there are 38 barristers per set of chambers when sole practitioners are excluded.
According to the bar regulator, the amendment will ‘improve our understanding of the profile of the profession, inform our activity to promote a diverse profession, and contribute to the recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce by chambers and entities.’
Some 31 individuals and eight organisations, including the Bar Council and LGBT charity Stonewall, responded to a BSB consultation on the proposal. Every organisation and the majority of individual respondents approved of the change.
However, some respondents argued that disclosing information about sexuality and religion was an intrusion of privacy.
The BSB hopes that the rule change will be introduced ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’. If chambers choose to publish the data it should be updated every three years.