Legal regulators must better understand the impact of diversity programmes

The Legal Services Board (LSB) urges legal regulators to do more to understand what is and is not working to improve the diversity and inclusion in the sector and focus on what is making a meaningful difference for professionals and consumers.

This follows the LSB’s publication of the independent report it commissioned from the Bridge Group, focusing on the success of regulatory interventions and the extent to which regulators evaluate the impact of their diversity and inclusion initiatives. The report includes insights and recommendations that will inform the oversight regulator’s ongoing work to achieve fairer outcomes for people who need legal services by creating a more diverse and inclusive profession. Findings include:

  • Legal regulators should use the data they collect about the professionals they regulate to inform and evaluate their diversity and inclusion initiatives.
  • Similar challenges face regulators in other sectors, indicating that the legal services sector is no different to other professional sectors in the slow pace of change in improving diversity.
  • To improve the limited evaluation of initiatives the report recommends the use of the theory of change model, or similar, for a more systematic approach.

Alongside publishing this report, the LSB has also launched a diversity dashboard to support better information sharing and improve transparency. It brings together the latest diversity data collected by the regulators on the people they regulate.  It is now easier to compare different parts of the regulated sector. Data includes the proportion of; women employed, age, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and attendance at a fee-paying school. The dashboard will be expanded in the coming months to include information on the how the diversity of the professions differ at entry and at senor levels over time.

Dr Helen Phillips, Chair of the Legal Services Board, said:

“The LSB and the legal regulators share the statutory objective of encouraging an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal services sector. However, despite the positive intentions over the last few years, there has been little progress on improving diversity of our sector.

“On the whole, regulators have been successful at collecting diversity data, however, data is not an end in itself. Understanding what initiatives have the greatest impact is essential if we are to see a radical change in the diversity of the legal profession. Evaluation must be a core part of deciding which regulatory interventions to make.

“The Independent Bridge Group report that we commissioned highlights that there has been little collaboration on diversity and inclusion. We want to help change that and a key part of our approach will be to work with regulators to encourage information sharing and cohesion to address these sector-wide issues. It is clear that the challenges we face are so complex and far-reaching that tackling them requires a concerted effort. By collaborating with others across the sector, we will support a profession that reflects the society it serves and that meets consumers’ differing needs.”

This year the LSB is placing a greater emphasis on diversity and inclusion as a key challenge from the Reshaping Legal Services strategy.  The review of our statutory guidance on diversity and inclusion in underway and a consultation will follow later in the year. This will be informed by the Bridge Group report together with the views and opinions from the regulators and others active in the sector.

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