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Legal sector contribution to the Business Compact

12 January 2012

The Deputy Prime Minister’s Business Compact

Chief Executive Chris Kenny is today pleased to represent the LSB at a reception organised by the Business Compact, a group of business and professional bodies committed to creating a step change in social mobility in the United Kingdom. The Business Compact was launched in April 2011 and includes as signatories more than one hundred of Britain’s biggest companies and top professional groups. It is a key part of the government’s Social Mobility Strategy, overseen by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

What will be the contribution of the legal services sector?

The LSB shares with the approved regulators a regulatory objective, set by statute, to ‘encourage an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession’. As part of improving diversity in the profession and driving social mobility, the Board has introduced new requirements for approved regulators to enforce transparency duties on law firms and chambers.

Every individual in the legal workforce will be given an opportunity to self-classify against the following characteristics: age, gender, disability, ethnic group, religion or belief, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, caring responsibilities. Published summary data will be made available at firm/chambers level about all the above characteristics, except for sexual orientation and religion or belief. Diversity data will be collated by approved regulators and published to give an aggregate view of the diversity make-up of each branch of the profession. At the level of firms or chambers, there will be a commercial incentive to improve diversity.

We also expect the education and training review, currently underway and led by the SRA, the BSB and ILEX Professional Services, to ensure that routes into the profession promote diversity. We also hope to see diversity fully embraced through progression to more senior levels.

As structural reforms in the sector take effect, resulting in greater plurality of legal services provision, we expect new ways of working to contribute to driving diversity and social mobility.

What will happen next?

By the end of January, the approved regulators will each produce an action plan on how they intend to ensure that the data is properly collected in their part of the sector. These plans will be agreed by the LSB, then implemented, and we expect the first set of data emerge at the end of 2012.

Chris Kenny, Chief Executive of the Legal Services Board said:
‘We are pleased to support the efforts of the government to work alongside business and professional bodies to drive social mobility. We feel the new transparency duties on law firms and chambers will play an important part on helping us to measure how quickly we are seeing change, as well as empowering clients to make choices based on the diversity of the provider. The inclusion of socio-economic background amongst the data sets, alongside the characteristics protected in the Equality Act, is a specific legal services sector initiative – the results of which we look forward to sharing’

For more information please contact Craig Jones, Media and Public Affairs Manager, using the details below.

020 7271 0068