Respecting and promoting equality and diversity are at the heart of what we do. We are the independent body overseeing regulation of legal services in England and Wales but we do not provide direct services to the public or the regulated community. Even so, within the bounds of our responsibilities, we strive to influence and shape how equality and diversity are addressed by approved regulators and legal service providers.
In addition to our commitment to integrate diversity and equality into our work and our organisation’s culture, we have statutory obligations under the Equality Act 2010. As a public authority we must comply with the public sector equality duty in the exercise of our functions. The duty requires us to have due regard to the need to:
- Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation.
- Advance equality of opportunity between people who share protected characteristics.
- Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
- Our work programme includes a range of projects with equality and diversity at their core and which help us to fulfil our equality duty.
Encouraging and promoting a diverse workforce
One of our regulatory objectives is to encourage an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession. We believe that a diverse population using legal services requires a diverse legal workforce. In 2010 we undertook significant research to identify what the issues were in respect of diversity in the profession and established a Diversity Forum that brought together approved regulators and the profession/representation bodies. As a result of the research and the collaboration we established four key priorities to address:
- the lack of data on the diversity make-up of the legal workforce;
- the inadequate systematic evaluation of diversity initiatives;
- the limited progression and retention of senior level practitioners from diverse background; and
- why corporate consumers have not sought more information from legal service providers on their performance in relation to equality and diversity.
In July 2011 we published a Decision Document setting out our conclusions, including statutory guidance about our expectations of approved regulators. Approved regulators are expected to collect and publish data about the diversity of their regulated communities. For those regulating entities, this includes a requirement for publication of data at an entity level.
In 2015, we reviewed the regulators’ progress against the 2011 guidance. This review found that a more robust evidence base on diversity had been developed since the initial guidance had been issued, but that the regulators’ analysis and use of the data required improvement. A summary report on the 2015/16 work can be found here. Following the conclusion of this work, we reviewed the guidance in 2016/17. We consulted with stakeholders on a less prescriptive approach that focused on outcomes. The revised guidance was published in February 2017 and an update on regulators’ progress against it was published in December 2017: Update on legal services regulators progress against revised diversity outcomes (2017).
Our diversity workforce programme has also entailed working with and encouraging approved regulators to use collaborative networks within and outside the legal sector. More details about our workforce diversity programme can be found here.
Using equality and diversity research and evidence to inform and develop our work programme
Equality and diversity in respect of consumers are important components of our research. We collect information on various factors such as age, gender, income and ethnicity. Equality and diversity also form part of the tender evaluation criteria for our research work, where we request information both on bidding organisations’ diversity policies and on how diversity issues would be addressed in the research being tendered.
We have conducted Equality Impact Assessments in our work on alternative business structures.
We are also developing an internal “consumer toolkit” for our colleagues, which is designed to help us keep consumers at the centre of the work we do. It includes profiles of diverse groups so we have a starting point for understanding the needs and expectations of consumers from different backgrounds. We also maintain and develop links with a wide variety of organisations representing a range of diversity interests.
The Legal Services Consumer Panel was established by the LSB under the Legal Services Act 2007 to represent the interests of consumers. The Panel provides independent advice on issues relating to the regulation of legal services.
The Panel has developed a wide range of contacts and incorporated diversity and equality into its consideration of consumer issues. For more information on the work of the Panel please click here.
Our own practices and policies
We actively embed diversity and equality practices into the way we operate as an organisation. It is right that we should do so when we are promoting and encouraging approved regulators and the legal profession to address equality and diversity issues. To this end we have:
- Surveyed and published details about the diversity of our own staff.
- Provided training for all colleagues and Board members on equality and diversity.
- Adopted a protocol so that we only work with firms who have made a commitment to diversity and equality.
- Adopted recruitment processes that are in line with our equality duty and undertake diversity monitoring of applicants.
- Undertaken to make our documents available in alternative formats when requested.
LSB Equality Objectives and reporting
The LSB is among the list of public authorities that must publish information to demonstrate compliance with the Equality Duty. We consult on our Equality Objectives as part of our business planning process and publish our annual Equality Objectives in the final Business Plan for the year.
Our equality objectives are:
Objective 1: Through our regulatory oversight role, encourage and work with the approved regulators to promote equality and diversity, including developing a diverse workforce across the legal sector at all levels by:
- Assessing regulators’ implementation plans to gather and evaluate diversity data.
- Reviewing and monitoring the progress made by regulators in delivering their implementation plans.
- Continuing to engage with approved regulators and others on how best to enhance a more diverse workforce across the legal sector.
Objective 2: Ensure our decisions take account of all relevant equality and diversity information by:
- Factoring equalities and diversity elements into our research, whether on workforce or consumer issues.
- Undertaking equality analysis where appropriate when developing our programme and polices for consultation.
- Engaging with diversity groups and organisations.
- Continuing to encourage the Legal Services Consumer Panel to develop a wide range of contacts and to incorporate diversity and equality into its consideration of consumer issues.
Objective 3: To ensure that the LSB’s own practices and policies, including its internal staff and external stakeholder engagement focus on equality and diversity issues, and are examples of the approach we promote to others. We will do this by:
- Ensuring that our publications are available in a variety of formats on request.
- Monitoring and publishing the diversity profile of our staff and responding to the results (bearing in mind the size of the organisation).
- When tendering for services, work with firms who can demonstrate that they have a commitment to equality and diversity.
- Applying recruitment processes that are in line with our Equality Duty.
We have prepared a report of our performance against our 2013/14 Equality Objectives.