Speaking at a parliamentary reception to launch this year’s Justice Week, CILEX chair Professor Chris Bones, called for an end to the “existing and deep-seated cultural biases in legal services against those from non-traditional or disadvantaged backgrounds”.
Addressing government ministers, opposition spokespeople, members of the Justice Committee, parliamentarians from across the political spectrum, the Law Society and the Bar Council, he challenged the profession to tackle the continuing prejudice and discrimination that is experienced at work by many CILEX members from non-traditional backgrounds.
Last year, CILEX ran its first ever membership insight survey, revealing the ‘hostile environment’ experienced by members in the workplace.
Three-quarters of CILEX members are women and 17% from an ethnic minority background, while 70% of those who responded to the survey went to a non-selective state school.
Nearly nine in 10 respondents (88%) agreed that “the legal profession is ignorant about what a CILEX lawyer can do” and 81% believed the rest of the profession looked down on them.
These insights into the working lives of CILEX members and the challenges they face, led CILEX to reshape its strategy, focusing on changing government policy, improving the justice system, members’ working environment, career opportunities and creating real opportunities for positive, potential change in the workplace.
They allowed CILEX to better represent the interests of members over the past year, leading to public commitments from the government and Judicial Office to address the remaining legislative, regulatory and policy barriers that have prevented CILEX members from participating fully in the legal system.
Responding to the discrimination and lack of respect many members faced from employers in particular, CILEX began a concerted drive to tackle the problem through engagement with other legal professional bodies and employers themselves.
This is a long-term project, so CILEX is again asking its members to help by sharing their experiences. By repeating the insight survey annually, the Institute will be able to see where progress is being made towards changing the culture of the profession and improving the workplace.
The survey is being undertaken by Pipeline, an independent consultancy who specialise in social mobility related data and are conducting the online research on CILEX’s behalf. All responses are anonymous and the survey will raise money for the CILEX Foundation which supports aspiring lawyers from disadvantaged backgrounds to qualify with CILEX.
Further details can be found here.