Law Society has advised recruiters in the legal profession to resist the urge to recruit only in their own image.
Recruiting from the old school tie network or a limited range of universities makes it hard for many talented people to enter or progress in the legal sector, the Law Society said.
While the diversity of legal talent in the profession is increasing every year, this is not reflected in those who become partners or leaders of law firms.
The Law Society observed that women, for instance, who make up half the solicitors profession, represent less than one third of partners.
At the same time, while nearly 12% of solicitors are from an ethnic minority background, they make up only 6% of partners.
In response to this, the Law Society has produced a guide for firms that want to improve procedures.
“Diversity and inclusion in law firms- the business case,” focuses on small firms as well as the wider profession and offers clarity as to why it makes economic sense to have a diverse workplace.
Law Society Chief Executive Desmond Hudson said: “There is a natural tendency to recruit in our own image- but this attitude builds barriers to many talented people gaining entry or progressing their careers in the legal sector. In order for a firm to keep up with the competitive market, it needs to demonstrate an inclusive workplace and robust diversity and equality policies.
“Law firms that have good diversity and inclusion practices will have a competitive advantage in the long-term over those that do not.”
With the demographics of the UK changing rapidly, diversity is essential for law firms wanting to attract the best people and meet clients’ needs. In addition, corporate clients are increasingly looking to ensure their panel law firms match their values and commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“We know, from direct experience as well as through extensive research, that if a firm has a good reputation for equality and fairness, it is more likely to attract good calibre candidates from diverse backgrounds when recruiting,” Mr. Hudson said. “And with the ever expanding international market, it makes sense for law firms to have a wide understanding of language, cultural and religious influences.”
The Law Society’s dedicated equality and inclusion team is ready to assist their members with questions on how to improve diversity and inclusion practices, Mr. Hudson said.