The legal profession is overwhelmingly under-represented by employees with disabilities according to research carried out by The Lawyer’s Diversity Audit, which is the first of its kind to calculate such figures. The audit specifies that only 1% of lawyers at top firms have a disability of some kind. This is but a fraction of the true representation of the actual working population living and working with a disability. Despite the fact that 19% of the UK population has a disability and 16% of the adult working population, law firms regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) have 1% or less. This figure also lowers to 0.7% at the bigger firms.
A large part of this under-representation is due to workers not disclosing their disability, which in most cases is because they have invisible conditions such as diabetes or mental health issues. Whether this is through fear that they would be treated less favourably by their employer during the application process or just a general indifference to disclosing their disability, the legal profession is still behind many other sectors in terms of openness about disabilities.
Firms that have chosen to address this under-representation include, CMS, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells and Reed Smith. Reed Smith has focused on attracting young and aspiring lawyers with disabilities to their application process. In the last recruitment year, 60 disabled candidates applied for training contract with 5 offers being made and accepted. CMS, HSF and Hogan Lovells have taken steps in promoting the acceptance of disability within the workplace through holding events and carrying out workshops. The principle aim being to display to employees with disabilities to be open and comfortable in their working environment.