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Sophie Cameron

Features and Opinion Editor, Solicitors Journal

Legal Services Board study finds unethical barriers limiting progress on EDI

Legal Services Board study finds unethical barriers limiting progress on EDI


The findings are based on the experiences of professionals from underrepresented groups

The Legal Services Board (LSB) published its findings from a quantitative study on the lived experiences of 30 legal professionals from underrepresented groups on 16 May, which finds that unethical and, in some instances, illegal work practices have created barriers to a successful legal career for some respondents.

The study by Solutions Research, which was commissioned by the LSB, aimed to explore the drivers of counter-inclusive practices in the legal profession and participants’ views on how to address them. The study was not designed to be statistically representative, but aimed to highlight the experiences of a sample of legal professionals across different gender identities, sexualities, ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, socio-economic backgrounds, those with the presence of health conditions, neurodiversity and disabilities.

According to the LSB, the experiences of the participants to the study highlight existing evidence of inequality and inequity in the profession and suggest there may be features, traditions and practices particular to the legal services sector that may hamper efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive profession. The testimonies in the report include details on, among other things: a culture of working long hours to achieve certain billable hours, which might exclude some groups; the need to be perceived as the ‘right’ sort of person clients will expect to work with; a lack of access to HR resources in some chambers or smaller firms; and a lack of flexibility in working practices and working in outdated and inaccessible physical environments.

Concerning unethical and illegal workplace practices the following issues were highlighted by some respondents: less prestigious universities being left off drop-down lists on application portals, leaving applicants unable to demonstrate their higher education achievements; the expectation to show a record of unpaid work experience despite working while studying or having caring responsibilities; denying flexible working requests that would help lawyers to manage health conditions or requiring them to take annual leave to attend medical appointments; a lack of transparent policies and processes around pay, work allocation and progression; and a failure in certain circumstances to make reasonable adjustments in accordance with the Equality Act 2010, to ensure physical workplaces are accessible.

Matthew Hill, Chief Executive of the LSB, said: “We are committed to ensuring that regulation plays the fullest role possible in ensuring all legal professionals can thrive in their careers regardless of their background. The insights provided by this study highlight enormous opportunities to make things better by changing the way the sector does business. We hope anyone serious about inclusion in the legal services sector will use the research to tackle the barriers that lawyers face every day.”