Diversity in the Legal Profession?

(Thanks to Karishma Daswani)

Neil Rose at Legal Futures reports that the Legal Services Board (LSB) is to compel law firms and barristers' chambers to disclose information on diversity, which would encompass:
  • age
  • disability
  • gender
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sexual orientation
  • working patterns
  • social mobility
This should come into effect in February 2011. And not before time.

My colleagues Lisa Webley and Liz Duff have been doing research on this, in conjunction with scholars from Leeds, for the LSB. Their report is due shortly and at Westminster we will be holding a seminar on this on 13 October. My guess is that their findings will not make happy reading for the profession.

This is an aspect of the legal profession which has remained under-researched and misunderstood for a long time. Both solicitors and the Bar have been reluctant to provide figures, except in aggregate, on gender and ethnicity. We do know that there are severe distortions in numbers between entry to law school and those in practice.

Lawyers and the legal profession have been good at portraying themselves as meritocratic and having removed the last traces of noblesse oblige. Yet without the statistics how do we know?

Discussion groups on Linked In have been grumbling about "heavy-handed" regulation from the LSB over having to collect and disclose this information. But they have only themselves to blame for not taking the lead and actively seeking to resolve the problems endemic in the profession.

Unfortunately when it comes to change the legal profession is snail-like. And this is one of the reasons the Legal Services Board exists--to overcome the inertia of the profession. Maybe it will begin to get the message, if it's prepared to listen. But....