Law firms “leading the charge” on diversity among professions

Kinsella: Great deal of transparency and discussion coming from the law

Lawyers are “leading the charge” among professional services firms when it comes to diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, a report has found.

Law firms also outperformed accountants, consultants and architects when it came to measuring the success of their initiatives.

The research, by thought leadership and marketing specialist iResearch Services, was based on responses from 570 businesses across professional services in the UK and US.

Researchers said law firms were “much more active than their peers” with DEI initiatives, with 86% having run them within the past six months, compared to 73% of accountancy firms, 59% of consultancies and only 45% of architects. The overall average was 67%.

A large majority of law firms (84%) measured the success of their DEI initiatives, compared to 73% of accountancy firms, 57% of consultancies and 55% of architects – an overall average of 68%.

In the report A fairer future: Equality and inclusion in professional services, researchers said: “One driver of greater transparency and discussion in the legal sector is their reporting requirements.

“In the UK, for example, the SRA [Solicitors Regulation Authority] requires all regulated firms, regardless of size, to collect, report and publish data on the diversity of their workforce every two years.

“Other professional services sectors, however, rely on voluntary reporting that is not standardised across the industry.”

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales collected diversity data from member firms licensed as alternative business structures so they can provide probate services, and aimed to extend this to all accountancy firms.

“The regulatory body is keen to stress how diversity data is a useful tool, even for solo practitioners.”

Researchers said there was no equivalent of the SRA’s reporting regime for law firms in the US, although Bloomberg Law launched a voluntary standardised framework last year.

The biggest focus for professional services firms in their initiatives was on race (35%), followed by disability (29%), gender (24%) and LGBTQ+ (12%).

Rachael Kinsella, editor in chief at iResearch Services, commented: “It’s positive to see that legal firms are active in wider DEI conversations – there is a great deal of transparency and discussion around DEI coming from legal thought leaders and professional bodies in the form of articles, blog posts, and workshops. However, there is work to do across the industry.”

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