The strengthening of the Law Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Charter for the profession is timely in light of the IBA’s recent report on bullying and harassment in the profession and our significant programme of work on Women in Leadership in the Law. We have launched reports on women’s round tables and men’s round tables and an international report will follow, creating a snapshot of working life and setting context for the new approach.
Following a review of the Law Society’s D&I Charter last year, we are developing a strengthened charter that will help our members advance their practice excellence in equality, diversity and inclusion.
The changes to the Charter include making the process of assessment more focused across specific diversity categories, e.g. gender; race and ethnicity; disability and wellbeing; LGBT+; and social mobility. The Charter will remain across three levels of achievement; bronze, silver and gold.
The initial application process will be based upon a firm’s workforce data, which will be supported by a narrative to make sense of and bring to life the issues identified by the data provided, together with an action plan for the firm to implement locally. The process of assessment across each level will include an independent peer review process based on specific criteria, where the review panel members will be drawn from the legal profession. This will in time drive standards as practice improves and expectations for organisational practice become more developed and embedded.
The revised Diversity and Inclusion Charter is currently being piloted by 14 firms of varying sizes across the regions. The pilot is a simulation of the whole application process through to submission and requires evidence gathering and action planning. The submission date for completed applications under pilot conditions is 31st October 2019 and peer assessment will take place in November 2019. Feedback will be provided to those firms that submitted a completed application for assessment.
We made a call for expressions of interest to firms who wished to participate in the pilot for the bronze-level application for gender. A briefing session took place at the end of April with firms, representing big 200 to small firms across England and Wales on the process of application, understanding data, constructing a narrative and creating an action plan, which are all part of the application process. The Charter application being piloted requires evidence of the following features:
- Letter of endorsement from Board level sponsor/senior partner(s)
- Description of the firm
- Self-assessment process
- A profile of the firm
- Supporting and advancing careers in the legal profession
- Supporting trans people in the legal profession
- Procurement policy and practice
The Diversity and Inclusion team are working closely with participating firms; offering advice and guidance as required. The pilot includes periodic evaluation to understand whether the process is fit for purpose, to consider the opportunities and challenges that arise throughout the pilot and to offer insights of further development for the final product.
In parallel, work to develop the remaining diversity category applications is ongoing and this developmental activity will continue throughout the pilot exercise. A further call for expressions of interest will be made for volunteer peer assessment panel members in summer 2019 and training will be delivered to this cohort in preparation of panels being convened. The Diversity and Inclusion Team are providing support to firms during the pilot and will continue to use the Charter Working Group and relevant Divisions (Women, LGBT+, Ethnic Minority, Junior and Disabled Lawyers) in consultation during the development period.
Although small firms are participating in the pilot, we are continuing to consult with small firms and in-house teams (who are out of scope of this project), to ensure that we can develop more bespoke solutions for these communities.
For more information
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