Lawyers and police aim to boost diversity levels

Two professions with bad reputations for diversity have made a commitment to improve the balance in their workforces.

The legal profession and the police – both traditionally largely made up of white males – are hoping to reform their records on diversity with new initiatives.

A group of top City law firms has signed a diversity ‘statement of intent’, highlighting a commitment to employ more people from different backgrounds and to access the widest pool of talent.

The scheme follows a recent call by David Lammy, minister for constitutional affairs, for law firms to tackle their Oxbridge-educated bias. His department’s figures show that less than 8 per cent of solicitors with practising certificates in 2003 were from ethnic minority backgrounds, and statistics from The Lawyer magazine reveal that City law firms are still Oxbridge-dominated at partnership level.

Founding signatories include Allen & Overy, Baker & McKenzie, Clifford Chance, DLA, Linklaters, and Weil Gotshal & Manges – underlining how seriously diversity is now taken.

Meanwhile, the Home Office has proposed that senior police officers will not receive performance-related pay unless they can prove they have properly promoted equality and diversity within their forces.

A 50-page official document, released at the end of last month, states that awards of the competency-related threshold payment of around 1,000 to officers at the top of their individual rank, will now be linked to their performance on race and diversity.

The report says it will be the responsibility of individual officers and their line managers to ensure they are up to speed on this area.

The pay of chief officers from 2005/6 will also be linked to their performance in this area, which will be assessed by their own police authority.

The report states that an ‘essential element’ of this assessment will be evidence of how chiefs have promoted equality and diversity within their own force.

Last week, the Commission for Racial Equality warned West Midlands Police that it was breaking race relations law and could face legal action. It has given the force a deadline of next month to tackle the problem.

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