Law firms and barristers’ chambers will be forced to publish data about the diversity of their legal staff, under plans unveiled by the Legal Services Board today.
Publishing a consultation, Increasing diversity and social mobility in the legal workforce: transparency and evidence, the LSB said that ‘embedding transparency as a regulatory requirement will provide consumers (both corporate and individual) with better information, and enable firms or chambers to demonstrate their competitive edge based on a culture and ethos that values diversity’.
The LSB said that ‘the picture at the more senior levels is still one of white male dominance’.
The LSB wants information on age; race; disability; religion or belief; gender reassignment; sex; pregnancy and maternity; sexual orientation; and socio-economic background. This will be gathered for all lawyers; barristers; paralegals; legal secretaries; and other support staff who directly support the delivery of legal services.
LSB chair David Edmonds said: ‘While there has been positive work on widening access to the legal profession, there are apparent continuing inequalities. Through these measures there will be greater transparency and sharper scrutiny by regulators and consumers based on published data. Appropriate policies can then be developed on the basis of the evidence we collect.’
The LSB says in its consultation paper: ‘We do not underestimate the scale of the challenge that we and approved regulators face – it is one that has been grappled with since at least the time of the Benson Commission on Legal Services in the late 1970s. There is no silver bullet, and the proposals outlined in this consultation paper are not the whole answer.
‘The most sophisticated and powerful consumers are already choosing suppliers of legal services partly because of their performance in relation to equality and diversity.
‘We are not proposing that there should at this stage be any regulatory requirement on entities to take action to improve the representation of particular groups in their workforce.
‘We do not think the case is yet made for regulators to set targets for firms (or indeed for us to set targets for approved regulators). We consider that transparency and greater clarity about the existing makeup of the profession will encourage more firms and chambers to take action to deliver diversity. If change does not happen we will listen further to the arguments and consider evidence of the (voluntary) use of targets by firms and chambers.’