In Industry Insights, Industry Insights

There have been a number of initiatives over the past year that aim to reduce barriers and increase access to law firms, which is seen by the SRA as being the key to inclusiveness.  Reducing barriers, so the theory goes, allows the ‘best and brightest’ people to practise law.

In a speech he gave to the House of Commons in March 2014, Lord Neuberger makes reference to ‘a diverse pool of candidates’ for judicial appointments which would in turn ensure the highest quality of judges.  The sentiment of his statement equally applies to the legal profession as a whole, including solicitors:

“Diversity is sometimes said to be the enemy of merit.  I do not agree: provided that diversity is properly invoked, it is not merely consistent with merit: it reinforces merit.  I have already explained that the more inclusiveness we have, the bigger the pool of potential judges, and the bigger that pool the higher the quality of judges.”

With the ultimate aim of improving access to justice and legal services, solicitors should reflect the needs of the population they serve, and the SRA firmly believes that clients need to see both cultural and social awareness.

There are a number of areas within the legal profession where diversity is an acute issue, namely:

  • lack of diversity in the highest paying roles
  • lack of women solicitors at partner level
  • under-representation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) solicitors in larger firms
  • under-representation of people with disabilities working in law firms

The SRA believes that the lack of a diverse and representative profession poses a risk to the profession as a whole, and is eagerly looking at ways to introduce more flexibility into legal education and training, for example, through their Training for Tomorrow programme.  The aim is to offer better opportunities for people from diverse social backgrounds to train and qualify as solicitors.

Diversity considerations are not new, but in 2012 they were elevated to Principle status in the SRA Handbook.  You must ‘run your business or carry out your role in the business in a way that encourages equality of opportunity and respect for diversity’ – this is now one of the 10 core pillars of legal practice.


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