The Fair Access to Professional Careers report from the government committee on social mobility (which met under Chairman Alan Milburn from January to July in 2009) was an initiative to make strides to improve ethnic and social access to the professions.
Milburn was reportedly offered the role of Social Mobility Tsar by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government, recognising his expertise (despite his status as a Labour MP).
Mr Milburn recently addressed matters of progress in regard to progress towards improved access to the law.
It was said that some progress has been made since 2009, which is obviously good news. However, the bad news is that in rising to the challenge of making access to the profession fair and equal law firms and barristers' chambers were not proceeding quickly enough.
That's why the Legal Services Board made proposals in 2011 to require lawyers to conduct ethnic and social-background monitoring. Under the coming regulation lawyers survey employees who categorise themselves under the headings of ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, responsibilities with caring for relatives, and disability.
The LSB regulations mean lawyers will have to publish the findings - although the information published with give anonymity to every individual. Actual implementation was tabled for 2012, but lawyers have been given an extra year to organise themselves, so the requirement will begin in 2013.
Simply soft-pedalling for another year is not, however, a sensible or desirable course of action for lawyers because the sense of this being a particular and pressing problem in the law is widespread from barristers' chambers in the City to high street solicitors in the provinces.
This concern has led to a pilot scheme from the Solicitors Regulation Authority which aims to capture a snapshot of the profile of diversity for the law from a bird's eye view.
Following this, in 2013, the annual reporting requirement on equality and diversity will begin. In fact 2013 will see a big change in the requirement of firms to collect information and their business and report it to the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The Bar Council is believed to be involved in similar proposals as the profession as a whole makes an effort to become less elitist "industry-wide".
For solicitors and barristers this means monitoring should begin as soon as possible in accordance with best practice.
This isn't just a best-practice issue for the law however, and employers large and small should consider their position in regard to diversity and equality. If you're an employer reading this article and think you'd like some specialist employment law advice direct from a barrister then you can save time and money and get that advice here.
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