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Article by Amine Imara
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Diversity in law firms remains a a key issue within the law profession today.
The importance of the representation of minorities in law firms stems from the responsibility of the legal profession to be a diverse and fair institution. The question of whether law firms represent minorities can vary widely on the particular minority. Minority representation in law firms encompasses ethnic minorities, lawyers with a disability, lawyers from socio-economic background and lesbian, gay and bi lawyers. In order to establish the extent to which law firms represent minorities, we must first look at the statistics published by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
What the data tells us
The SRA has published statistics this year which cover the representation of ethnic minority groups within law firms. The SRA reported the percentages of Black, Asian and minority ethnic lawyers within law firm which are as follows; 12% Asian 3% Black and Mixed/ Multiple. They also reported the percentage of lawyers within law firms with a disability 6%, the percentage of lesbian, gay and bi lawyers 4.4% and the percentage of lawyers from a professional socio-economic background 57%.
Steps taken and progress
There are various steps law firms can take to ensure minorities are represented which include inclusive hiring, quotas to ensure law firms hire a certain number of individuals from minority groups and diversity training. These steps have been taken by some law firms which has resulted in an increase for some minority groups such as the percentage of lawyers within a law firm with a disability has doubled from 3% in 2015 to 6% in 2023 which is clear evidence of law firms increasing their inclusivity of minority groups. However, there is still significant amount of underrepresentation in law firms of individuals with a disability compared to 16% in the UK workforce.
Whilst some minority groups are being increasingly represented, other minority groups have seen a steady decline. The proportion of lawyers from a professional socio-economic has decreased from 60% in 2019 to 57% in 2023. Moreover, lawyers from a lower socio-economic background has also seen a decrease in recent years from 21% in 2015 to 18% in 2023. The lack of representation of lawyers from a low socio-economic background is largely attributed to financial burden that arises from costly training contracts. The cost of training contracts provides a heavy barrier for most low-income aspiring solicitors with many being unable to secure training contracts and the majority of training contract offers going to high-income students due to the selection process.
The statistics published by the SRA shows that generally minorities within law firms are underrepresented which is a huge blow to the solicitor profession as a whole. The lack of representation of minorities in law firms has both social and economic implication on law firms within the UK. The social implication on law firms includes discouragement of a particular section of the youth from pursuing a career as a solicitor in a law firm.
The lack of representation of minorities in a law firm may lead to the public’s trust in the legal profession to fall as they believe that law firms are not representative of society as a whole.
Furthermore, the solicitor’s profession has a fundamental duty to ensure fair representation for all individuals as promoting diversity in law firms aligns the broader societal goal promoting equality and justice. Moreover, ensuring inclusion of minorities in law firms has a significant business benefit as many businesses prioritize inclusion and diversity and firms that demonstrate a commitment to diversity are far more likely to attract clients.
The statistics published by the SRA clearly show the lack of representation of minorities in law firms and in order to combat this underrepresentation law firms need to introduce significant stringent measures such as diversity training in order to prevent further societal and economic implications to transpire. Through the increase in representation of minorities in law firms the legal profession would become a much more fair and representative institution which would allow for an increase in the public’s trust.