Newsletter – October 2023

Spotlight on… using diversity data to help Costs Lawyers thrive

As the oversight regulator for legal services in England and Wales, the Legal Services Board (LSB) and regulators including the CLSB have a statutory objective to encourage an ‘independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession’. Ensuring a diverse legal profession enables the sector to meet society’s needs by reflecting the diversity of the communities it serves.

The regulators are required to collect and publish data on the diversity of their regulated communities and, critically, ensure this is embedded in regulatory activity. We monitor this through our regulatory performance framework.

It is well established that the legal profession is not sufficiently diverse, so why do we need more data and why is it collected so frequently?

Diversity data collection is an important opportunity to empower regulators such as the LSB and the CLSB to take meaningful interventions that make the legal profession a place where anyone can enjoy a successful career regardless of their background. This evidence is central to the design of initiatives that tackle barriers to equality, diversity and inclusion at every stage of a lawyer’s career, from recruitment to progression and retention.

It also forms the basis for evaluating the success of initiatives to enable organisations and regulators to make the best use of their resources and do more of what works. Sharing learnings on success through transparent evaluation metrics facilitates changing course where intended outcomes of initiatives are not being achieved. The fuller the dataset, the more informed regulators will be to take effective actions to address the barriers to inclusion.

Ideally, diversity data would be paired with insights on the lived experiences of inclusion, looking at, for example, the wellbeing of lawyers and how they feel about their access to professional opportunities. Earlier this year, the LSB published the results of a qualitative survey that identified continued barriers to getting in, being in and getting on in the legal profession for those from currently underrepresented groups.

The testimonies in the study give voice to existing evidence of inequality and inequity in the profession and suggest that there may be features, traditions and practices particular to the legal services sector that may hamper efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive profession. For example, professionals in the study told us about a culture of working long hours to achieve certain billable hour targets, which might exclude some groups, and highlighted a lack of flexibility in working practices and working in outdated and inaccessible physical environments. The findings may help form the basis for useful questions about how inclusion works in practice.

Knowing who is in the profession today and their experiences can help better meet the needs of all lawyers and enable regulators to best meet their regulatory objectives.

How does the LSB use the diversity data that CLSB collects?

Our diversity dashboard combines the latest data from across the legal profession, including disability, gender and metrics related to socioeconomic background. To make the data work for us, we need to know what success looks like for diversity. Data from regulators is set against benchmarks for each metric using UK Workforce demographic data to be clear about why we collect data and the end goal. We continue collaborating with the regulators to harmonise their collection to improve transparency and accountability.

The power of the dashboard lies in connecting data sets to provide meaningful insights that tell a compelling story to those who might not engage with tables of numbers. It is not just the data you have – it is how you use it. For example, the latest data tells us that 7% of Costs Lawyers have a disability. This is the highest disability declaration within the legal profession yet is still lower than the relevant UK benchmark of 18%. The data also shows us that 11% of Costs Lawyers attended a fee-paying school compared to 34% of barristers and 6% of chartered legal executives. What can different parts of the profession take from these insights?

The dashboard provides a transparent, up-to-date picture and acts as a springboard to plan initiatives, measure and compare impact across the profession and identify further questions to interrogate data. It enables the regulators to learn from each other and drives accountability to ensure their commitments are followed by action.

What can you do?

  • Respond to the CLSB’s diversity survey.
    Help the CLSB to capture the data it needs to promote a strong, effective and diverse Costs Lawyer profession. You are part of the costs community; your experience matters.
  • Encourage your organisation.
    Whether you are a business owner, people manager or employee, encourage your organisation to collect internal diversity data. Compare your organisation to the costs market, the wider legal profession and the population at large. What does the data tell you?
  • Act.
    Data should help determine what works to address barriers to diversity. Don’t wait for the perfect data set or get lost in ‘analysis paralysis’. Start with the data you have, use it to tell a story, and then act. Bring together practitioners from within and outside your organisation to ask questions that inform the steps you will take. Be part of the discussion and collaborate with others to help the Costs Lawyer profession attract, retain and celebrate talent from all parts of our diverse society.

Kerry Gilsenan
Regulatory Policy Manager, Legal Services Board

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