Only one third of the UK’s 100 top legal firms are willing to publish data about the diversity of their staff, according to the government.
Legal services minister Bridget Prentice said she had written to all the firms last November asking them to publish diversity statistics, but only 34 had replied. Out of those, 32 had already published the data.
“I had hoped for a better response rate but it has not stopped us writing to a further 100 firms asking them to publish their diversity data, and equality and diversity policies by 4 August,” she said.
“It is crucial that the profession is transparent about its policies on recruitment, retention and promotion. Publishing the information I asked for goes a long way towards demonstrating that transparency.”
The legal profession has traditionally been seen as one of the most closed sectors in business when it comes to employing women and people from black and ethnic minority groups.
Just 3% of partners in the UK’s top 100 law firms come from ethnic minorities, according to The Lawyer magazine’s 2006 Diversity League Table.
Prentice was speaking at the launch of a government initiative to encourage greater diversity in the legal profession.
The Routes into the Legal Profession pamphlet published by the Department for Constitutional Affairs gives an overview of training required for different legal jobs, details the major professional bodies, and explains alternatives to the traditional routes to becoming a lawyer.
“Many of those aiming for a career in law are unsure about where to start looking,” Prentice said. “Not everyone has the benefit of knowing someone who works in the legal profession.”
In April City law firm Herbert Smith became the first legal company in the UK to formalise its commitment to equality by appointing an inclusivity manager.