In March we reported on our roundtable event, where CRL launched its first EDI strategy containing its key objectives:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Inclusion is not just the right thing to do but can also lead to positive outcomes for businesses and consumers.
Consumer research  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  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.
The next phase of our EDI work will primarily focus on:
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:
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.
 Legal Services Consumer Panel: Experiences of Black Asian and Minority Ethnic groups using legal services
 McKinsey & Company: Delivering through Diversity