Government challenges law firms to improve their equality and diversity record

The government has asked lawyers to help open up the legal profession to people from different backgrounds.

Legal services minister Bridget Prentice has challenged more law firms to publish their equality and diversity figures.

This would show their commitment to and acceptance of the contribution diversity and equality makes, which would increase staff morale and public confidence, she said.

“In a modern and democratic society, equality and diversity should be acknowledged, taken seriously and celebrated. It is not enough to say we are doing it, we must show that we are,” Prentice said.

“Some law firms have taken up my challenge to them last year to publish their diversity and equality data to give a visible sign that the legal profession is at the forefront of upholding our values – but not enough.”

Prentice also announced the findings of a working group, set up by the Department for Constitutional Affairs, to explore the recommendations made in the Increasing Diversity in the Legal Professions report.

The working group has identified a number of barriers that people face in pursuing a career in the legal profession:

  • Lack of easily accessible information about how to pursue a career in law or alternative routes into the profession

  • Inadequate information to students about costs, timescales, employer expectations, skills and experience required

  • Lack of comprehensive research about what affects career progression, equal pay, and flexible working

  • The need for more recognition of work based learning and other skills and experience as part of recruitment.

“It is important that, in addition to encouraging people from a wide range of backgrounds into the profession, that there are policies and practices in place that will make them want to stay in the profession,” Prentice said.

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