Firms have well-publicised diversity programmes – but they’re not working, InterLaw finds

The vast majority of legal professionals feel their firms have well-publicised and effective equality and diversity strategies.

Daniel Winterfeldt
Daniel Winterfeldt

The results from an InterLaw Diversity Forum survey of lawyers and non-lawyers are particularly surprising as the overall data shows that such programmes are not having the desired affect.

As The Lawyer reports today, the authors of the report have made strong recommendations on the back of the findings, calling for firms to introduce diversity targets with financial incentives or penalties if they are met or missed.

Yet, thesurvey of more than 1,700 legal professionals found that 90.5 per cent of male and 83.4 per cent of female lawyers (86.2 per cent overall), as well as 88.1 per cent of male non-lawyers and 85.3 per cent of female non-lawyers (86 per cent) said that their firm has a publicised equality and diversity strategy.

A further question on the effectiveness of such policies revealed that 72.5 per cent of male lawyers said it is, as do 62.9 per cent of female lawyers, plus three quarters of non-lawyers.

The report’s findings have highlighted that the further away an individual is from the white male ‘norm’ in the legal sector, the less money they earn and the less satisfied they are.

CMS Cameron McKenna international markets head Daniel Winterfeldt, who is the firm’s diversity and inclusion partner, said that although the sector has programmes in place, the impact is not spreading upwards from the recruitment level to the “core of the business”.

However, the survey’s findings on salaries bears out its robust conclusions that diversity is not working.

From the 1,230 lawyers who answered the question on total annual pay, four men and 11 women get less than £10,000, compared to seven men and four women earning more than £500,000 a year.

The biggest proportion of men (16.6 per cent) were in the £100,000-£200,000 band, whereas 206 women (27.7 per cent) were in the £25,000-£40,000 band.

This pattern is exaggerated amongst non-lawyers, but on a lower pay scale.

The majority categories were 41.6 per cent of women being paid between £10,000-£25,000 and 37.9 per cent of men being paid £25,000-£40,000.

Above that salary band, however, pay equals out between men and women in business services. Only one woman out of all 518 non-lawyers of all genders surveyed earned more than £300,000.

And when it comes to comparing pay packets, women feel significantly undervalued compared to their peers

The data shows that 41 per cent of female lawyers thought they were paid less than those supposedly on the same pay scale or with the same responsibilities. The figures was 28 per cent for male lawyers. Only 5.7 per cent of men and women believed they were earning more.

More female non-lawyers (39.3 per cent) than male non-lawyers (34.5 per cent) thought they earned less than their equals.

Irwin Mitchell London managing partner and diversity board member Alison Eddy backed calls for “aspirational targets” as well as mentoring to create more role models for underrepresented groups.