Report urges “impact targets” for judicial diversity initiatives

Hill: Need to assess the impact of efforts to improve diversity

There should be targets to help measure whether efforts to improve judicial diversity are achieving their goals, a report for the Judicial Diversity Forum (JDF) has argued.

Not-for-profit consultancy the Bridge Group, which based its research on interviews with JDF officials, said there was widespread support for “impact targets or at least milestones” among JDF members.

It used the phrase ‘impact targets’ to describe what was intended to happen as the result of an action taken.

The JDF is an umbrella body made up of the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice, and the chair or president of the Judicial Appointments Commission, Legal Services Board, Bar Council, Law Society and Chartered Institute of Legal Executives.

Researchers proposed nine “high-level” goals which would allow the JDF to set more specific targets within each area.

One goal would be that those applying for judicial posts from each professional background should “reflect (at a minimum) the eligible pool in terms of diversity characteristics”.

Another would be that the success rate for each diversity group should be at least “the same as the average success rate across all applicants from that professional background”.

A related goal was that applicants for judicial posts who were solicitors, chartered legal executives and other non-barristers should achieve the same success rate as barristers.

Linked to this, a further goal required the retention rate to be the same for lawyers from each branch of the profession.

Researchers said that, to measure progress, “we strongly recommend agreeing numerical impact targets, where data is available”.

For example, for the goal that “at each level of the judiciary, the judiciary better reflects the society it serves”, the JDF could set a specific date for when the profile of judges reflected “the profile of senior members of the legal professions”.

Another target, to improve the pipeline of candidates for judicial office, would require the professional bodies by a certain date to increase the proportion of ethnically diverse lawyers at senior levels by 20%.

The first four goals recommended by researchers related to judicial diversity and inclusion outreach programmes. One of them was that the success rate for programme participants in obtaining judicial posts was at a minimum the same as the average success rate for all participants.

In the report Strengthening the evaluation of JDF partners’ diversity initiatives, researchers said most interviewees expressed the view that the aims for the JDF were “not clearly defined and they asked for collective clarification of a common aim”.

There was also “a perception that the implementation of actions is not co-ordinated and that there is insufficient collaboration between members”.

Although progression to the judiciary was “the key aim of the JDF, most interviewees noted that progress against it was not being measured”, while interviewees from the professional bodies said that they could not measure progress, due to lack of data.

Researchers said that, although data from the JDF’s flagship pre-application judicial education programme was shared with the professional bodies, the “current limitations of the data” meant that they could not assess whether or not it made their members more likely to apply to be judges.

“There is widespread support among interviewees for impact targets, or at least milestones, throughout the journey to the judiciary.”

Matthew Hill, chief executive of the LSB, commented: “Assessing the impact of efforts to improve the diversity of the judiciary is crucial to achieving progress.

“The Bridge Group has outlined that an effective approach to the design and evaluation of initiatives is one with clear aims and targeted and collaborative action.

“The JDF has focused on incorporating these recommendations into its actions and priorities for 2022/23 to maximise our chances of success in addressing the remaining barriers to a diverse and inclusive judiciary.”

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