Legal profession looks to action, not words as it celebrates Black History Month

The theme for Black History Month is ‘Time for Change: Action Not Words’, which will encourage people to improve the future by taking real, lasting action to make the world a better place for Black people.

Law Society of England and Wales president I. Stephanie Boyce said: “This year’s Black History Month is especially personal to me, as it will be my last as president of the Law Society.

“Black people often experience racism and discrimination. Then they are expected to fix it. This must change.”

The Law Society is taking action for its own members by speaking to Black solicitors about their experiences of working in the profession.

In 2020, we published our Race for Inclusion report, which shed new light on this issue and indicated how we can build a more inclusive profession.*

I. Stephanie Boyce added: “Our research discovered the challenges and obstacles Black, Asian and minority ethnic solicitors face due to their ethnicity.

“Adverse discrimination was reported by 13% of Black, Asian and minority ethnic solicitors and 16% reported bullying.

“A third of Black African and Caribbean solicitors say they have experienced some form of discrimination or bullying in the workplace – the highest figure reported by any ethnic group.

“A lack of progression in larger firms was also an issue. 34% of partners in single partner firms are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

“As part of our report, we recommended that firms have open, honest conversations about race and what needs to change in their organisation, implement blind and contextualised recruitment, set targets for senior leaders, and instil a data-driven approach to diversity and inclusion.”

In the two years since we undertook this research, there have been positive signs of improvement.

Our annual statistics report 2021 found that representation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic solicitors continued to grow, reaching 18% and Black, Asian and minority ethnic solicitors working in private practice increasing by 6%.**

I. Stephanie Boyce added: “However, more work needs to be done in increasing representation of those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic, and low socio-economic backgrounds. Only 1% of solicitors working in the City are Black.

“To help firms develop and deliver a strategic approach to D&I, the Law Society recently launched our diversity and inclusion framework.

“Our D&I framework helps workplaces drive change by supplying a proactive three-step action plan that will help our members develop and deliver a strategy that creates lasting change.

“Improving diversity and inclusion in the legal profession has always been one of my primary ambitions as president.

“I hope the work I have done during my time as president has gone some way to improving how the profession recruits and retains its talent. Personal characteristics or an individual’s socio-economic background should not determine how far people can go.

“I very much look forward to celebrating Black History Month with my colleagues in the profession.”

Notes to editors

* Read Race for Inclusion: the experiences of Black, Asian and minority ethnic solicitors report. The research was commissioned in 2020.

** Read our annual statistics report 2021

Read the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s 2021 diversity statistics

Read about the Black History Month 2021 campaign theme

About the Law Society

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Press office contact: Naomi Jeffreys | 020 8049 3928

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