The Law Society could encourage firms to undertake annual pay audits as a way to combat inequality in the solicitors’ profession, we can reveal.
It comes as Chancery Lane prepares to publish a flexible working protocol to help law firms embrace the concept.
They are set to form part of an action plan being drawn up to tackle a range of equality and diversity problems in the solicitors’ profession identified by research last year that highlighted the career barriers faced by women, black and ethnic minority, and gay, lesbian and bisexual solicitors.
One of the ideas being floated is to encourage the Solicitors Regulation Authority to identify firms’ publication of an annual equal pay audit and report on actions being taken to address inequality, as being an indicative behaviour providing evidence of compliance with solicitors’ equality and diversity obligations in the new Code of Conduct.
Pay audits may also be encouraged through the society’s practice management standard Lexcel, Chancery Lane’s diversity and inclusion charter and the law management section, as well as more generally as part of risk and compliance management.
Another idea is to encourage the SRA to monitor closely how firms ensure equality in relation to the areas and type of work undertaken by employees, and in how internal promotions are handled.
The society’s education and training committee may also look at what steps can be taken to address the problems experienced by many in accessing careers with large firms.
The flexible working protocol – which will be an adjunct to the diversity and inclusion charter – will include a statement of intent/support by signatories to the principlies of flexible working and the business case for it, along with advice on how to introduce, develop and communicate a flexible working policy.
Last year’s survey found that organisational culture, outdated perceptions of women, resistance to contemporary management practices such as flexible working, and perceptions of client expectations meant the legal sector was still very male dominated, causing real issues for the retention and advancement of top female talent.
The charter has 200 signatories, firms which between them employ a third of all private practice solicitors.