Government backs social mobility toolkit for lawyers and other professionals

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By Legal Futures

5 March 2012

Clegg: impressive resource

The government has welcomed the first common framework to measure the progress of social mobility within the professions, which was launched last Friday.

The social mobility toolkit was published by Professions for Good, whose members include the Bar Council and City of London Law Society, along with 11 other significant non-lawyer professional bodies.

The 52-page toolkit – part funded by the Legal Services Board and produced by PR company Spada – provides practical recommendations for employers of all sizes, professional bodies and regulators on how they can track and foster social mobility. It also provides best-practice advice on how to collect and process data on social mobility and how organisations can diversify the socio-economic profile of their members and employees, including advice on choosing work experience candidates in a fair way. It will be regularly reviewed.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “Professions for Good has created an impressive resource illustrating the importance of social mobility and giving everyone a fair chance. Britain’s workplaces need to open up. Great strides are being made, but more is still to be done and I encourage all employers to join in.”

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Universities and science minister David Willetts added: “The government is committed to investing in a fairer future where social mobility is unlocked and everyone with the potential can access the professions, regardless of their background. A significant proportion of new jobs that are expected to be created

in our economy over the next decade are professional ones. We can’t afford to let the talent of our people go un-utilised. I am delighted that Professions for Good has published its guidance.”

The toolkit focuses on the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) as a case study of diversity in the legal sector. Head of corporate affairs Helen Whiteman said: “Embracing social mobility is a must if the legal sector wants to ensure it is representative of those it serves. CILEx has been at the forefront of diversity in law for almost 50 years and the recognition that our profession can pass on its experiences of best practice to other businesses across all UK professions is proof of that.

“We have already adopted the toolkit’s template questionnaire into our membership survey, also launched last week, and we are very proud to have been working alongside Professions for Good and other organisations to develop the toolkit, putting it on the public agenda.”

The toolkit has its origins in the 2009 report by Alan Milburn on the barriers to entry and social mobility within the UK professions. Following that, the Department for Business, Innovation of Skills’ gateways to the professions collaborative forum – which was chaired by LSB chief executive Chris Kenny – and the panel on fair access to the professions recommended the development of a social mobility toolkit.

This year, as part of the LSB’s new transparency duties, every law firm and chambers will have to report on the diversity of its staff.

Mr Kenny said: “We welcome this release from Professions for Good. The board has placed a real emphasis on improving diversity in the legal profession through our new transparency duties. These, notably, include requirements for data collection relating to socio-economic background, as well as the traditional diversity strands.”

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