A Man’s World: Law firms battle with diversity

What’s going on here?

When delivering a lecture on ‘A changing judiciary in a modern age’, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Burnett of Maldon, highlighted fears that the judiciary may not be moving with the times and does not accurately represent our society in the present day. 

What does this mean?

Lord Burnett stated that in order to make the judiciary more diverse, law firms must actively increase the number of females and individuals from minority ethnic communities within senior roles. The ‘stubbornly low’ number of female QC’s and partners working in larger firms is indicative of the unacceptably slow progress that has been made over the past century.

Instead of turning to more external encouragement, he indicated that the solution may be to go back to basics and alter the working practices currently being implemented within the profession to make the environment ‘supportive for all’.

Why should law firms care?

In today’s day and age, one would expect that there would be an adequate level of inclusivity and equality within the legal industry. However, it has been brought to light that the field still has a long way to go before effectively reaching these goals. Statistics show that while roughly 20% of solicitors in practice are from ethnic minorities, the partnership figures are ‘striking’. In comparison, in single partner firms, 34% of partners are from ethnic minority backgrounds whereas in larger firms the figure plummets to a shocking 8%.

Diversity within the workplace is of the utmost importance as it can have a significant impact on the overall standard of work being produced. Therefore, it is key that legal professionals recognise that creating a safe, comfortable working environment for their employees (regardless of their background, lifestyle or culture) is paramount. Hiring a diverse range of employees is beneficial to firms as it allows a vast array of skills, ideas and tactics to be brought forward which can enhance quality, innovation and creativity. Moreover, this can help organisations to adapt when faced with unfamiliar situations. 

In order to improve this ongoing issue, firms must work to create a diverse culture through establishing and properly implementing equality and diversity policies.

Report written by Kajal M.

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