Legal Services Board to get tough on social mobility in profession
Lawyers will be asked to reveal whether their parents attended university under far-reaching proposals by the Legal Services Board (LSB) to monitor social mobility across the profession. The plans are part of a concerted effort by the LSB to monitor social mobility ahead of the April Equality Act implementation.
The LSB consultation document, ’Increasing Diversity and Social Mobility in the Legal Workforce: Transparency and Evidence’, will form the basis for the largest survey of the profession’s diversity credentials.
It states: “We consider that transparency and greater clarity about the existing make-up of the profession will encourage more firms and chambers to take action to deliver diversity.” Lawyers will be quizzed on a range of topics, including socio-economic background, religion, disability and caring responsibilities.
While the LSB conceded that there is no “silver bullet” solution to encouraging greater diversity in the law, lawyers welcomed the move.
Baker & McKenzie partner Tom Cassels said: “It’s absolutely necessary. The first stage of dealing with these issues is to understand the current position. It’s not about social engineering. “You need to ask the questions to make sure you don’t inadvertently block access to the profession.”
“It can only help what we’ve been doing as a profession,” stated Weightmans partner Elaine Chapman. “We’ve moved on so much in the past five years. It’s a really good thing and can only help enhance the skill sets of legal organisations.”
The regulator is also consulting on how best to monitor social diversity in alternative business structures (ABSs) following the implementation of the Legal Services Act in October.
“Our expectation is that licensing authorities will impose requirements for transparency about diversity data from day one,” the LSB stated. “The requirement will need to extend to the part of the relevant organisation that’s licensed as an ABS. This is particularly important, because success in removing barriers to progression cannot necessarily be measured only by looking at whether the diversity make-up of traditional firms or chambers changes to reflect the wider population.”
The LSB has commissioned a team of academics to produce a qualitative survey of the sector and its approach to encouraging greater diversity.