The Solicitors Regulation Authority has acknowledged the burden placed on firms by its requirement to collect diversity data, days after sole practitioners called on the regulator to drop the exercise.
Publishing the findings of its third survey today, the regulator announced that the hitherto annual exercise will now take place every two years. The next one will be in May 2017.
The regulator said it ‘recognises that collecting this data imposes a burden on firms, particularly sole practitioners. It is committed to understanding the impact on firms and taking a proportionate approach’.
At a ‘top-table event’ organised by the Sole Practitioners’ Group in Hertfordshire last Saturday, solicitors told Jane Malcolm, SRA executive director of external affairs, that reminders to submit diversity data ‘feel quite threatening’.
Another told Malcolm the ‘general consensus is "get rid of the diversity questionnaire"’.
The SRA is required by the Legal Services Board to ensure that a comprehensive evidence base about the diversity characteristics of the workforce is available.
All firms regulated by the SRA are required to collect, report and publish workforce diversity data. The requirement does not apply to regulated individuals working for in-house practices.
One solicitor told the event: ‘Members in my firm get really upset. They do not want to keep answering these questions… We’re being put under unnecessary strain on diversity. It’s the big firms who [the regulator] should be targeting.’
One solicitor later told the Gazette that she had no objection to submitting diversity data, but that the regulator was ‘making me pry into people’s lives in a way that I find unpleasant. It’s just altogether rather distasteful’.