updated on 24 August 2021
The Law Society of England and Wales believes that the adoption of hybrid and flexible working initiatives could provide a chance to improve social mobility within the legal profession.
Responding to the Social Mobility Commission’s state of the nation report 2021, Law Society President I. Stephanie Boyce said: “We are pleased to see that professional jobs have expanded over the last decade, creating opportunities throughout the professional services sectors.
“Whether this expansion improves relative social mobility in the UK depends on who gets these jobs. At present, it looks like you still have a much greater chance of getting a professional job if you are from a professional background.”
Since 2012, three-quarters of the UK’s job growth has been in professional services, according to the report.
While the stats indicate a rise in professional service jobs, the report also states that “there are already signs that attainment gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged children are getting wider” across the UK, with covid-19 “threatening to make” it worse. According to the report, “you are still 60% more likely to get a professional job if you come from a privileged rather than working class background.”
Boyce adds: “We all have a part to play by ensuring that we are actively reaching out to those from lower socio-economic backgrounds and removing the barriers to entry and progression.
“We recognise more needs to be done to monitor socio-economic diversity across the profession too, including who gets access to the higher-level apprenticeships in the sector, and who gets on and reaches the senior levels of the profession.”
Social mobility ambassador for the Law Society of England and Wales and lawyer at Anthony Collins Solicitors Alice Kinder has argued that socio-economic background should be added to the Equality Act as a protected characteristic to ensure these issues are not neglected. Kinder said that “people from lower socio-economic backgrounds who do not possess another protected characteristic do not have the benefits of anti-discrimination legislation.”
Meanwhile, the report also considered various other factors to reveal that “ethnic minority individuals from privileged backgrounds are more likely to experience downward social mobility than their White counterparts”.
Boyce added: “The pandemic has widened socio-economic inequalities in education and employment, but has also created potential opportunities for firms and organisations to reach out to students and candidates in geographical areas that have historically had low social mobility.
“We look forward to engaging with the wider legal and professional services sector to help drive social mobility in the coming year via our participation in the new Social Mobility Taskforce for professional services.”
Visit LCN’s Diversity Hub to stay up to date with what law firms, chambers and legal education providers are doing to address the lack of diversity within the profession.