Next steps for Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI)

Following our EDI roundtable event in March, we are now moving forwards with our plans. In this feature we look in detail at the themes raised and how they are shaping our work on EDI.

In March we reported on our roundtable event, where CRL launched its first EDI strategy containing its key objectives:

  • to improve the ability of aspiring lawyers to enter and progress in the legal profession regardless of their background or diverse characteristics; and
  • to improve access to legal services for consumers regardless of their diverse characteristics.

Bringing together legal regulators, professional bodies, the Legal Services Board (LSB), Ministry of Justice, the Legal Services Consumer Panel and the Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion, the discussion focused on barriers to progression for all legal professionals and the potential for improved legal services for consumers.

We thought we would take this opportunity to share with you the themes raised and how they are shaping our work on EDI.

Sector-wide initiatives

Levelling Up Law, chaired by roundtable guest Seema Kennedy OBE, is a major initiative bringing together fifteen City of London Law Society Firms and several non-Russell group universities to widen access to the legal profession, by focusing on the areas of careers advice, open recruitment, fair progression and achieving equality through diversity and inclusion.

Evidence from the initiative so far fits with legal sector findings. Some successes are being seen in recruitment and outreach, with programmes run in communities furthest from a level playing field, to identify talented young people and equip them to be able to access opportunities offered by City firms. However, career progression based on merit alone is proving a much tougher nut to crack.

While the focus so far has been on solicitors, following the roundtable, Seema Kennedy expressed interest in working with CRL to understand the specific barriers faced by CILEX Lawyers in the profession as well as how CILEX’s alternative routes into practice could contribute to the debate on levelling up.

Counter-inclusive practices

Workplace culture is recognised as a massive challenge to entry, retention, and progression within the legal profession. Counter-inclusive practices are activities, customs, and ways of working which might work against inclusion. Examples include:

  • underlying prejudices or unconscious bias that may influence the allocation of work, with certain individuals presumed more or less suited to different types of legal work;
  • potential adverse repercussions if concerns are raised or adjustments requested; or
  • inaccessible networking requirements, such as out of hours events, heavy reliance on alcohol, and inappropriate or inaccessible social venues.

CRL is participating in work led by the LSB in this area to identify and understand these practices more fully and to consider appropriate solutions and standards for our regulated community.

Standardising data collection

Data collection has emerged as crucial to enable barriers, associated with equality, diversity, and inclusion within the profession, to be tackled.

It is essential that a wide range of diversity indicators, including socio-economic factors, are captured, both to evidence the current baseline, and to provide a true understanding of changes in diversity across the legal sector over time.

However, it is not just about the collection of data, but also what information we gather from legal professionals and how we gather it. We have been collecting EDI data for several years, however, work has been carried out by other organisations (such as the work to understand socio-economic background undertaken by the Social Mobility Commission) to develop questions which capture indicators of specific elements of diversity most effectively.

Based on this work, legal regulators are collaborating to consider the most appropriate questions to ask in future data collections.

The results will help us to improve insights into legal sector diversity, and ultimately help us to inspire the much-needed changes in attitudes and behaviour within the profession.

Consumer and business benefits

Inclusion is not just the right thing to do but can also lead to positive outcomes for businesses and consumers.

Consumer research [1] finds that trust in lawyers is lower for ethnic minority consumers than for white consumers. It is, therefore, important that lawyers exist who reflect the diverse range of consumers requiring legal services, enabling ‘levelling up’ to become a reality for disadvantaged communities.
Research [2] also finds that companies in the top quartile for gender or ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. Companies in the bottom quartile in these dimensions are statistically less likely to achieve above-average returns. This suggests that fostering an inclusive workforce is likely to bring some level of competitive advantage for companies that can attract and retain diverse talent.

We are currently examining the published literature on consumers and EDI, and we are awaiting the publication of further relevant sector research, with a view to commissioning our own review, which will focus on addressing identified gaps in knowledge to add value to the sector, consumers, and our regulated community.

Next steps

The next phase of our EDI work will primarily focus on:

  • establishing an agreed definition of career progression for the legal sector
  • collaborating with legal sector regulators and stakeholders through the legal regulators’ EDI forum and Judicial Diversity Forum on diversity data collection
  • participating in the LSB’s cross-regulator work on counter inclusive practices, including signing up to the LSB’s statement on counter-inclusive practices in disciplinary processes, and
  • reviewing our EDI data against all stages of our enforcement processes to increase our understanding of the potential for differential impacts to individuals based on their individual characteristics.

How can our regulated community help?

We have high ambitions for our work on EDI which we believe will bring benefits for the whole of our regulated community and the consumers they serve. The regulated community can help us achieve them by:

  • providing full, accurate and up to date diversity information when renewing membership with CILEX for 2023
  • telling us their story and lived experience of discrimination and prejudice in the workplace when invited
  • taking part in CILEX membership surveys
  • participating in initiatives designed to advance EDI such as mentoring schemes

We also welcome general comments and ideas about what CRL could be doing to promote EDI further. Feel free to contact us with your views.

Find out more

CRL EDI Strategy 2022


[1] Legal Services Consumer Panel: Experiences of Black Asian and Minority Ethnic groups using legal services

[2] McKinsey & Company: Delivering through Diversity


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