The Law Society has today opened a mentoring scheme for solicitors from minority groups in a bid to improve diversity at partnership and senior leadership levels.

The scheme, in partnership with diversity and inclusion consultancy Brook Graham, is designed to support career progression for women, members of ethnic minorities, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) and disabled solicitors, who the Society said were underrepresented at the top of the legal profession.

The scheme is believed to be the first of its kind encompassing all firms across the legal profession.

Society president Jonathan Smithers (pictured) said: ‘We need a profession that rewards excellence equally; a profession that embodies the values we uphold in the law, and one that reflects and represents the diverse population we serve.’

One legal director who has been a mentor and mentee, told the Society: ’The biggest thing I have taken away from a personal perspective is a far greater awareness of the unconscious assumptions and behaviours that we all have and exhibit, and better strategies for identifying and challenging mine and others’ default thinking and behaviours.’

Recent statistics on the make-up of the profession show one-third of white European solicitors were partners compared with one-fifth of BAME (black and minority ethnic) solicitors. In contrast, BAME solicitors represented nearly one-third of assistants, compared with a little over a quarter of white Europeans.

There was also a substantial margin between the number of male and female partners – 43.3% for men compared with 19.2% for women.

Smithers said the relationship between mentor and mentee ‘can be incredibly enriching and empowering for both parties, opening up fresh perspectives and building a sense of community within the profession’.

The scheme will run in 12-month cycles and is open to practising solicitors in England and Wales.

The scheme will also provide mentors to the Society’s social mobility initiative, the Diversity Access Scheme, which was set up to address barriers faced by students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

To register as a mentor or mentee, see the Law Society website. The deadline for applications for the 2015-2016 programme is 20 October.