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Ethnic diversity within law firms

Ethnic diversity within law firms

Bethany Barrett

08/10/2020

Given that it is currently Black History Month, I wanted to write about ethnic diversity specifically within law firms and the significant amount of work that there is still left to do.

According to the biennial research into diversity figures conducted by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in September 2019, employees with a Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background made up 21% of the UK legal workforce. This figure is considerably higher than the 13% of the UK population that the 2011 General Census found belonged to BAME groups. When you break down the headline data, differences between firm sizes and the number of employees from BAME backgrounds become clear. The larger the firm, the lower the percentage of partners from a BAME background – this figure stands at 34% for single partner firms but plummets to just 8% for firms with more than 50 partners. This discrepancy suggests that, while the legal industry has come a long way, there is still a huge amount of work to be done.

Equally, these statistics speak nothing of the racism and unconscious bias lawyers from BAME backgrounds may face in applying for, and once in, their jobs. The value in the success of firms using the Rare contextual recruitment system, therefore, cannot be underestimated. Many firms – both individually and together – have also launched diversity projects and initiatives. These range from simply having a diversity and inclusion officer/section on their website, to unique projects running across offices which have specific aims relating to diversity. Organisations such as NOTICED, the UK’s first inter-firm network focusing on multiculturalism, serve to unite firms’ efforts and make the legal industry not just diverse in number, but also one educated on issues that employees from a BAME background may face.