LSB to force law firms to publish diversity stats

The Legal Services Board (LSB) is pushing law firms and barristers’ chambers to publish data about the diversity of their legal staff under plans unveiled yesterday (15 December).

The consultation document sets out proposals for the regulators to address, that would see all firms publish information on age, race, disability, religion or belief, gender reassignment; sex; pregnancy and maternity; sexual orientation; and socio-economic background in an anonymous survey.

Chairman of the LSB David Edmonds said: “Whilst there has been positive work on widening access to the legal profession, there are apparent continuing inequalities. Through these measures there will be greater transparency and sharper scrutiny by regulators and consumers based on published data.”

It is hoped that through the diversity survey results a competitive pressure will be created among legal services providers to take action to increase diversity and attract the best talent.

The consultation follows the report funded by the LSB outlining recommendations for combating stereotyping and bias in the legal profession, (Lawyer2B.com 14 October 2010) and the revelation from existing data and research material that found only 25 per cent of partners in law firms are female and 3.5 per cent of partners in the top 150 firms are black or minority ethnic.

The LSB said in its consultation paper: “We do not underestimate the scale of the challenge that we and approved regulators face – it is one that has been grappled with since at least the time of the Benson Commission on Legal Services4 in the late 1970s.

“There is no silver bullet, and the proposals outlined in this consultation paper are not the whole answer. However, we hope that they represent an important and significant step forward in bringing diversity issues into the mainstream and ensuring firms and chambers are held accountable for their progress.”