The Legal Services Board (LSB) has outlined its latest plans to improve the diversity of the profession, which will focus on developing ‘success criteria’ which regulators can use to judge their performance.
In a report for last month’s board meeting, the LSB said there was “reasonable diversity” in the number of people entering the profession, but this was not transferred into “similar diversity at senior levels” of the sector.
The super-regulator said professional bodies and regulators had “come a long way” from their initial resistance to its involvement in the area, when the LSB started its work on diversity in 2009.
“A number of legal services regulators now have published equality strategies and are fully considering diversity in their analysis of the risks faced in their sectors.
“Also, activities to support diversity that were previously uncommon or largely undertaken by the more innovative of firms, are now increasingly becoming part of normal business practice for legal services providers.”
The LSB said that, given its “limited resources”, it would identify good practice, publish “clear success criteria”, and use this to “hold the regulators to account”.
The first stage of the new approach would be research, to “confirm diversity issues in the legal sector” and what regulators should be doing.
The research would cover what was happening in the legal sector and across the economy to improve diversity, and highlight examples of good practice.
This would be followed by a consultation paper providing an overview of diversity issues and setting out a range of “existing or alternative” regulatory actions, such as providing templates for law firms or chambers to break down their data by level of seniority.
In its response to the consultation, the LSB would set out the final success criteria, which would be incorporated into its regulator performance programme after a “run-in” period had raised awareness.
“Issues with regulators’ involvement in supporting progress on diversity and the burdens this imposes have been raised in our work on the cost of regulation and there continues to be resistance from some in the sector to this work.”
The super-regulator said it had “long argued” that public interest in a diverse judiciary required a diverse legal profession. “However, as with all of the regulators’ work, there are many competing priorities for them to take into account and the LSB must be realistic as to what it is possible for each regulator to achieve.”