Report shines light on ethnic group attainment gap in legal professional assessments

The University of Exeter has published its report* on behalf of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) into the causes of different levels of attainment for ethnic groups in legal professional assessments. Findings show that there are a myriad of reasons that cause differences in outcomes.

Key findings from the report include:

Being part of a minority group increases the likelihood of experiencing discrimination and bias in education settings and decreases access to work experience opportunities in law firms

Lack of ethnic diversity in academic staff and in the examples taught in legal education can impact students' feeling of belonging and/or that they 'fit' within law. It can also lead to microaggressions and bias in the classroom from academic staff, impacting minority ethnic students' learning

Those doing better in their professional assessments tended to have fewer challenges at school, at university and within professional education. They also tended to be individuals who had had more access to positive workplace opportunities and role models from similar backgrounds to them

Law Society of England and Wales president Nick Emmerson said: “We are pleased the SRA has published its report scrutinising the differential outcomes of aspiring solicitors taking legal professional assessments, such as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and Legal Practice Course (LPC).

“The University of Exeter’s research shines a light on the complexity and breadth of the potential causes of attainment gaps by ethnicity and how they impact legal professional assessment outcomes.

“It shows that the differential outcomes by ethnicity are likely not due to one single issue, but a range of issues from early education, school, university and access to legal work experience.

“The Law Society is keen to work together with the SRA and other stakeholders to agree a collective way forward to address differences in outcomes by ethnicity.”

Notes to editors

* Read the University of Exeter’s report on the attainment gap for ethnic groups in professional assessments

Read about the SRA-commissioned research by the University of Exeter on the attainment gap for ethnic groups in professional assessments

Read the University of Exeter’s literature review

Members of the Law Society’s Ethnic Solicitors Network have contributed to the research and sat on the working group.

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