The Law Society has published a guidance note to help firms collect and publish diversity data about their workforces.

This year is the first that firms have been required to make their own arrangements. Last year the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) sent out an online questionnaire and collated the responses itself.

The guidance note gives details of what data is required, including job status and role as well as age, gender, disability, ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation, socio-economic background and caring responsibilities. It also gives a timetable for publication.

All practices regulated by the SRA, including sole practitioners, recognised bodies and alternative business structures, are required to collect, publish and report their workforce diversity data, whilst in-house practices or other bodies not regulated by the SRA are exempt.

Data should be delivered online to the SRA by 31 January 2014.

Law Society president Lucy Scott-Moncrieff said: ‘It's important that firms understand the diversity of their own organisations. They can only improve diversity if they know what to target. Complying with regulatory requirements can help firms identify opportunities to develop greater diversity, opening the door to talent they may have been overlooking.’

The data is required under the Legal Services Act to encourage an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession.

Approved regulators are to collect this data from firms and publish it at aggregate and practice level.