Historically, the legal sector has not been regarded as a hub of diversity, as white males have long dominated the profession – particularly in senior positions. However, a 2021 survey carried out by the SRA, found that there is a slow but steady increase in diversity within law firms, in comparison with their 2019 survey:
- Women make up 52% of lawyers, up 1% from 2019, but only 35% of senior roles, such as partner, are made up of women.
- Government employment figures for 2019 show that 13% of the UK workforce were from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) background. The overall proportion of BAME individuals working in law firms as of 2021, is 17%.
- While 14% of the UK workforce identify as being disabled or having a health condition, only 5% of law firm employees identify the same way.
- According to the SRA’s survey results, 3.5% of lawyers identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, which is slightly higher than the UK population.
With Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) being at the forefront of many minds, now more than ever, the legal community must take steps to ensure that the sector diversifies and is inclusive of all backgrounds, races and identities. In this blog post, we explore why D&I is important and how law firms can become a more inclusive and diverse space.
Improve Client Relationships
When a workforce is diverse, it creates a better reflection of society as a whole, which can enable law firms to both gain new clients and better serve existing clients.
Marginalised clients face various barriers to service when interacting with companies and brands, so by embracing D&I within your law firm, you can help break down these barriers and serve all clients on the same level.
If your workforce is built up of individuals from different backgrounds, your clients will feel more at ease by working with people with similar experiences to them. This familiarity builds trust, as your lawyers are able to better understand and empathise with your clients, strengthening your client relationships and creating brand loyalty.
Attract and Retain Talent
By 2025, millennials will make up approximately 75% of the overall workforce, and according to Deloitte, this generation are more likely to work longer for companies who have a firm grasp of the needs of a diverse workforce. They fully understand the importance of diversity and inclusion and will take this into account when looking for work and making a job decision.
Legal practices that embrace Diversity and Inclusion, and embed this deep into their culture, values, and business strategies, are considered to be socially responsible and will have a strong reputation, meaning that they are more appealing to job seekers, as well as existing staff.
The key to a diverse and representative workforce is ensuring that candidates from underrepresented backgrounds apply to your firm in the first place. There are numerous diversity organisations, such as Aspiring Solicitors, upReach and The InterLaw Diversity Forum, who can support you with your recruitment and outreach strategy.
Studies have shown that businesses with diverse workforces have a competitive advantage and tend to perform better.
Innovation comes from having the ability to approach an issue from varying perspectives, and so by bringing together people from different backgrounds, with different experiences and skillsets, you’re more likely to gain plenty of creative, new ideas, which can be incredibly valuable to firms seeking effective and efficient processes for generating optimum ROI to gain a competitive advantage.
Empower Employees and Build a Strong Culture
Diversity and inclusion can help you to create an enriching environment, which will help your staff grow as individuals and professionals – they will have the opportunity to see things from different perspectives, learn about other cultures and experiences, and discover new ways to approach their work.
By working to provide a workplace that encourages learning and development, whilst also ensuring everybody and every voice is heard, valued and respected, you will increase employee engagement and morale. Those who feel valued and engaged are more likely to deliver better outcomes.
“Be yourself. If people are themselves, their best versions, then they are also going to bring their best to work.”
David Aird, IT Director at DAC Beachcroft
Learn more about diversity and inclusion in the legal sector from DAC Beachcroft’s IT Director, David Aird, in episode 1 of our podcast, Shaped for Law.