A fifth of law firms failed to meet last Friday’s deadline for submitting their diversity data reports to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
Some 79% (8,396) firms successfully lodged their reports last week, “with many more in progress”, according to the SRA.
The figures represent a major improvement on the situation in mid-January, at which point fewer than 4,000 firms had completed the exercise, even though it started in July 2013.
Unlike in the first year of monitoring, this time the SRA did not provide an online survey, essentially collating the results itself, meaning that firms have had to make their own arrangements to collect the data and then report it to the SRA.
They also have to publish a summary of it themselves, although smaller firms have an exemption if they cannot publish the data without the risk of identification.
Mehrunnisa Lalani, the SRA’s director of inclusion, said: “We would like to thank the majority of firms which have provided their diversity information to us as this will give us a comprehensive evidence base about the diversity characteristics of the legal workforce in England and Wales.
“We would like to apologise for the few technical issues which some firms experienced when trying to submit information but we have been able to resolve these quickly once we knew about them.”
She said that over the next few days the SRA would contact firms “that need help entering the data into mySRA”. She added: “We will then be considering the regulatory options for those firms who have not attempted to comply.”
Once the information has been collated, the SRA will publish a report on the legal workforce in England and Wales.
The SRA said monitoring should not be used a standalone exercise “just done for the sake of compliance”.
“The information gathered will help identify any diversity issues so that appropriate steps can be taken to resolve them. Diversity monitoring is just one of the tools that a firm can use to manage the risks of non-compliance with the discrimination legislation or the regulatory regime which could lead to complaints to the Legal Ombudsman, legal action or investigation by the SRA.”
The data requirement was imposed by the Legal Services Board, which has argued in the past that it is a “light-touch way” of recognising that the legal sector needs to modernise and improve in terms of diversity.