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Jody Tranter

Senior director of learning, BARBRI

The battle for talent – promoting diversity

Opinion
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The battle for talent – promoting diversity

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Jody Tranter explores how championing non-law graduates and diversity of thought could help close the talent gap

The battle for talent remains a very real challenge for the legal sector, with the Wolters Kluwer Future Ready Lawyer report (2022) showing that 86 per cent of legal departments and 70 per cent of law firms are still experiencing ‘very’ or ‘somewhat significant’ impact from the so-called ‘great resignation’. 

And with 79 per cent of professional services firms reporting difficulties finding talent in the British Chambers of Commerce’s Quarterly Recruitment Outlook just last month, recruitment issues in the legal sector clearly remain. 

The good news, however, is that forward-thinking firms are rising to this challenge by reconsidering their approach to building a healthy talent pipeline. For many, this starts with changing mindsets beyond the traditional ‘law degree and training contract’ route. 

Not only does this hugely expand firms’ talent pool when securing their future workforce, it also means they are accessing a much broader, diverse pool of candidates. Which not only satisfies diversity targets but brings additional benefits in its own right.

Another strong enabler for this shift is the introduction of the new Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam (SQE) in 2021, which by its flexible nature has made qualifying as a solicitor a viable career option for a much wider cross-section of society. Accessible at numerous points, from school leavers to those already working in the legal sector, such as paralegals, the new SQE route also makes it easier for graduates with non-law degrees to qualify as solicitors. 

And it’s worth noting here, before exploring the many benefits of a more inclusive approach, that, contrary to some industry sceptics, the quality of non-law graduate candidates is not lower than that of law graduates. 

In fact, BARBRI data for SQE2 exam results shows that 88 per cent of non-law graduates passed, compared to just over 82 per cent of law graduates.

Concerns around the quality of non-law graduates notwithstanding, law firms who consider graduates from a non-law degree background or indeed those accessing the SQE route from other entry points, are inviting a much greater diversity of thought into their organisations - the benefits of which are far reaching, according to research.

For example, a recent white paper study found that teams make better decisions 66 per cent of the time than individuals, but when this is a diverse team, better decision-making increases to 87 per cent. Similarly, a research report from Deloitte found a 20 per cent increase in decision-making quality by diverse teams. Teams made up of a diverse group of people were also three times more likely to be high performing, twice as likely to exceed financial targets and six times more likely to be innovative and agile.

And when it comes to future-proofing firms’ leadership, research from The Boston Consulting Group found that businesses with above-average diversity on their management teams reported 45 per cent average innovation revenues, compared to 26 fo per centr those with below-average leadership diversity.

As firm believers in the benefits of diversity of thought and the different skills and perspectives non-law graduates can bring to the legal sector, we’ve recently introduced our Foundations in Law programme. The six-week course gives potential candidates an introduction to the legal landscape and legal studies.

Allowing potential candidates the chance to ‘try before they buy’ and fully commit to the SQE, these types of programmes have a key part to play in encouraging non-law graduates to enter the sector. 

With the talent gap showing no signs of slowing, now is the time for firms to take decisive action when it comes to their approach to future proofing their workforce. Fortunately, with the latest SQE2 results confirming the quality of non-legal graduates and research supporting the commercial case for diversity of thought, firms who embrace new routes to qualification have every reason to be optimistic about building and attracting a workforce of enviable talent.  

 

Jody Tranter is senior director of learning at BARBRI.