Levelling up - diversity and social mobility

Sue Chandler, CRL Senior Policy Officer takes a look at the lack of diversity in the legal sector and the efforts being made to improve social mobility in the profession

Within the legal sector, there is growing acknowledgement that many parts of the profession are not inclusive or diverse.

For CILEx Regulation, promoting equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) has long been at the heart of all we do. We believe the legal sector should provide a fair and inclusive environment, where talented people, whatever their background or diverse characteristics, are valued and can advance their careers. Your start in life should not determine how you get on in your career.

We have increasingly been focusing on the lack of socio-economic diversity because it can compound other diversity characteristics, making it even more challenging to progress within the legal profession, especially at senior levels.

EDI strategy

Last year, we published our first EDI strategy, which set out our commitment to enabling all those we regulate, whether individuals or firms, to be valued for their abilities and supported to thrive. Wherever they choose to work, CILEX members need to be given opportunities and support to advance their careers as far as they are able to go.

We were delighted to launch our strategy at a roundtable event in March last year with representatives from across the legal sector and a keynote speech from Seema Kennedy OBE, chair of the Levelling Up Law initiative.

As Ms Kennedy recognised in her foreword to the Levelling up Law Action Plan, “for too long it has been the case that the connections and experiences a person gains, as a result of their family background and education, determine how successful they can be. The lack of social mobility not only damages the lives of individuals but also wider society, as it fails to draw on existing talent”.

Consumers need to receive legal services delivered by people they can relate to. The value brought by people with differing perspectives, experiences, backgrounds and insights is crucial for designing innovative services required and deserved by diverse consumers.

Diversity in the financial sector

Other sectors are also recognising that a lack of social mobility is damaging and holding them back.

In November 2022, the financial and professional services sector called for a step change in encouraging socio-economic diversity. The City of London Taskforce launched its final report, Breaking the Class Ceiling, with its vision that 50% of senior leaders from across the financial and professional services sector should come from a non-professional background by 2030.

The introduction to the report said: “Many are looking to the sector to provide solutions to some of the most pressing economic, environmental and social issues. But these challenges are complex and require innovation driven by diverse perspectives. The current lack of diversity in the sector is having negative consequences on businesses’ productivity, retention, innovation and license to operate.”

The taskforce report sets out a five-point pathway of tangible steps that all firms, regardless of size, can take, alongside recommendations for government, regulators and sector representational bodies to support employers over the period to 2030.

Included in the key recommendations are assigning accountability to senior leaders, data collection, completing actions, goal setting, and collecting and publishing data.

The report looks to the legal sector as leading on the area of collecting and publishing diversity data.  However, there is still more we need to do.

Moving forward

In quarter three this year, we will publish our fourth all-member diversity report, in which we analyse the diversity profile of our regulated community from the data provided in your personal data submissions.

Please take the time to check that your data is accurate and up-to-date. The more accurate and complete the data we have, the more effective and targeted we can make our work to bring about change.

This year, we will also enhance our understanding of barriers to career progression and initiatives to overcome them, from our cross-sector EDI research with 12 professional and regulatory bodies. Thank you to everyone who responded to the survey at the end of last year and to those of you who will be helping with the more in-depth interviews to support this research.

We will continue working with legal regulators and other stakeholders to build momentum to tackle the barriers the profession comes across and to support our regulated community.



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