Diversity statistics compiled by the Black Solicitors Network show a profession whose diversity reduces at identifiable intervals – the transition from law degree to a career in the law, and again at the transition to partnership.
A sceptic might observe that the profession’s progress on diversity is inversely proportional to the number of warm words devoted to the subject. Progress remains patchy and slow. Too slow.
But there are encouraging signs. It is too often forgotten that the issue is intimately related not only to gender, race, sexual orientation and disability – but also to class and social mobility. In this area, the government’s appointed ‘tsar’, Alan Milburn (pictured), judges the legal profession to be doing better. John Major’s recent intervention on the subject can only be welcome. Nevertheless, many City firms fail even to reflect the composition of the top universities from which they recruit. Like continues to recruit like.
A couple of observations. First, as BME students make up one-third of those starting a law degree, the issue in law is clearly not one of aspirations that need ‘lifting’. Second, the allegation of some that greater diversity is about ‘quotas’ and ‘dumbing down’ appears odd to the firms who have made progress here, and who know that it is all about raising standards – finding and hiring better lawyers.