Law firms should consider setting diversity targets for BME lawyers and staff, just as some have done with women, the Solicitors Regulation Authority has said.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority has brought in an equality and race relations expert to look at whether there is any racial bias in the decisions it makes after research showed that BME solicitors continue to be disproportionately represented in its regulatory decisions.
Around 15 claims of race discrimination against the Solicitors Regulation Authority will be launched shortly, arguing that it treats black and minority ethnic solicitors less favourably than white counterparts, the Society of Black Lawyers has claimed.
The proportion of black and minority ethnic solicitors (BME) named in complaints about conduct to the Solicitors Regulation Authority surged last year, the third year in which the figure has risen. BME solicitors comprised 27% of all conduct complaints.
Some 138 law firms have closed after entering the assigned risks pool in the past two years, while solicitors who do not pay their ARP premiums are being pursued into bankruptcy, the Solicitors Regulation Authority has reported. Most of the firms (119) shut through an orderly wind-down, while 19 were closed by an SRA intervention.
Concerns over a worsening diversity picture at the Bar have prompted the Bar Standards Board to consider making aspects of its guidelines on diversity mandatory. The news came as research published by the Law Society showed that significant obstacles still face women and ethnic minorities in accessing the upper reaches of the solicitors’ profession.
There is real potential for alternative business structures (ABSs) to have a positive impact on both the profession and consumers, the Solicitors Regulation Authority has said. The provisional conclusions of an equality impact assessment said solicitors would benefit from improved employment opportunities, while ABSs would facilitate improved access to legal services for consumers.