The Law Society's Diversity and Inclusion Charter, launched in 2009 with the support of BT and the Society of Asian Lawyers, is aimed at providers of legal services.
The charter gives providers of legal services the opportunity to make a public statement of their commitment to developing and implementing best practice in equality, diversity and inclusion.
Charter signatories recognise that a diverse workforce will better meet the needs of their clients, who are encouraged to seek legal providers who meet standards on equality through the charter's protocol on legal procurement.
By signing up to the charter, signatories commit to:
- Achieving best practice in their recruitment, retention and career progression practices as employers
- Supporting the development of good diversity practice by collecting and sharing with other signatories examples of practical activities that contribute to progress.
- Assigning responsibility for meeting charter commitments to a named, senior level individual.
- Working together to develop and adopt future protocols that support the practical implementation of the aims of the charter.
- Publishing annually the diversity profile of their UK employees and details of their work on equality, diversity and inclusion.
- Publishing a joint annual report on the basis of a monitoring exercise to measure the impact of the Diversity and Inclusion Charter and its protocols.
Signing up to the charter
Signing up to the charter is easy. A partner or director sends an email to firstname.lastname@example.org stating their commitment. Once we have this, we will ask for information from you to ensure that all signatories meet the charter's requirements. We then create an account for the firm.
Diversity and inclusion standards
The charter is underpinned by a set of diversity and inclusion standards that provide a framework to help signatories identify good practice and recognise their progress. The standards identify three levels of competence:
- The red level supports compliance with equality legislation, principle nine of the SRA Code of Conduct and Lexcel requirements on equality and diversity.
- The amber level requires signatories to involve stakeholders in their diversity initiatives and effectively communicate their policies.
- The green level focuses on positive outcomes and requires signatories to demonstrate results.
As the charter is designed to help its signatories achieve the various levels within the standards, there's no requirement for practices to already be achieving a specific level of competence when they sign up to the charter. We recognise that charter signatories are all at different stages of the diversity and inclusion journey and the charter is designed to support signatories irrespective of what point they are starting from.
There's also recognition that while equality, diversity and inclusion principles apply universally, in practice the delivery of these principles will vary depending upon the size of the signatory's practice. This is why the standards have been separated into one version specifically for small practices - one for 25 or less employees, and one for firms with more than 26 employees.
There are currently 467 signatories to the charter and this includes 75 of the top 100 law firms, a mix of large, medium and small law firms and a number of in-house legal departments. This also means that over a third of solicitors working in private practice now work in a charter signatory firm.
Law firm DWF is a key supporter of the charter. Its head of values and corporate responsibility, Tyrone Jones, says: ‘We have worked hard to bring the charter commitments to life as part of the way we do business and are happy to acknowledge the extent to which the Law Society's diversity framework has added real value to the firm. This is the second year DWF has participated in the annual review process which continues to stretch and change our thinking on diversity and what it takes to foster a truly inclusive culture. We still have much to do, but remain confident that the outcomes are resulting in an enhanced experience for our people, our suppliers and the wider community.
Participating in the charter's biennial report
An integral commitment of being a charter signatory relates to reporting and contributing to the biennial charter progress report through a self-assessment exercise based against the charter's standards.
The last annual report is based on the self-assessment results of 341 signatories who participated in the 2015 annual review.
Results from the survey show that the charter is helping to make diversity and inclusion business as usual in several business areas of the charter's standards. Examples of this included:
- just under half of the top 100 and large firms demonstrating that all new policies and practices undergo equality impact assessments and
- more than 70 per cent of large or top 100 law firms rated gold or silver for monitoring and reviews
However, attracting and developing a diverse workforce, particularly at partnership level, remains challenging.
Download the 2015 Diversity Charter annual report
The charter is accompanied by a set of protocols that are designed to help signatories meet the charter's commitments. The protocol on reporting and monitoring supports signatories in meeting the requirement to collect and report on workforce diversity statistics and is now aligned to the regulatory requirements in this area.
Its flexible working protocol supports signatories to embed effective flexible working practices. Both protocols include a variety of best practice information, checklists and other useful tools.
The charter's protocol on legal procurement is a statement of commitment made by purchasers of legal services to embed diversity and inclusion in their legal tender process.
The charter member-only website contains a range of best practice guidance on key areas covered by the charter standards.
The society also runs a programme of events across the year including firm diversity forums. Attended by a range of people including diversity and inclusion professionals, as well as HR and recruitment practitioners to partners with responsibility for diversity issues, the forums operate as learning opportunities by focusing key diversity and inclusion challenges.
And finally, the Society's diversity and inclusion team can work with firms and legal practices to provide in-depth support diversity and inclusion issues through dedicated webinars, online training and regular newsletters.