With figures showing that 25% of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) solicitors make partner compared to 35% of their white counterparts, the Law Society of England and Wales is launching a series of virtual roundtable discussions to explore why this group is under-represented at the senior level.
The discussions are part of ongoing in-depth research – developed with input from the Law Society’s Ethnic Minority Lawyers Division (EMLD) – exploring the career experiences of those from minority groups.
At a time when there has been success at recruitment levels with 17% of solicitors defining themselves as BAME, above that of the working population in England and Wales (14%), this research aims to explore experiences around recruitment, retention and progression, to establish why BAME solicitors are still under-represented at a senior level and to identify how organisations and the profession can continue to support and improve the working lives of BAME members.
“BAME solicitors are not sufficiently represented at senior levels in the profession, and we are therefore conducting detailed research into the representation of BAME lawyers across the country,” said Law Society president Simon Davis.
“Racism and all forms of discrimination and prejudice have no place in our justice system – or in any other aspect of society. Our society and the solicitors’ profession continue to strive to ensure access to justice, equality for all under the legal system and to promote the rule of law.
“Virtual roundtable meetings are being run with solicitors, and with those responsible for recruitment and progression, across the country, from Birmingham to Manchester and London to Cardiff, throughout July and August. Once completed, we plan to draw up detailed conclusions from members’ feedback."
The desk research phase confirmed that whilst a higher proportion of BAME solicitors are sole practitioners (11%) compared to 4% of white European solicitors, BAME solicitors are less well represented at partnership level within the larger firms.
“Some work is already being done to address this in some of the large firms – by those with a good understanding of the diversity profile of their workforce, those setting aspirational targets around new partnerships and by those voluntarily publishing their ethnicity pay gaps ahead of any legislative requirement. But more needs to be done."
Previous research in this area by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the Law Society found that the main challenges the industry faces include:
- educational attainment
- the development of soft skills
- careers guidance
- university access
- significant financial obstacles
- access to work experience, and
- recruiting practices of employers
The current research will examine recruitment, retention and progression, to identify what practical steps the profession can take in addressing the challenges and to from a longer-term strategy for the Law Society.
“We plan to speak to about 100 solicitors across the whole range of the profession and from all sectors, including from the private and public sectors, at different stages of their career,” Simon Davis added.
“We are also talking to employers and recruiters as part of this campaign, so that we can establish what they are doing and what they could be doing to change and influence the present position.”
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