When I qualified as a solicitor at a very large City of London law firm, it had only one woman partner, but no BAME, disabled or LGBT partners.
It's easy to forget that we've come a long way since then. Statistics from the SRA indicate that women are around a third of law firm partners, BAME solicitors represent about 17% of law firm partners, 3% are disabled (compared with 10% of working age adults in employment). Figures are less clear for LGBT individuals*.
However there is, of course, still a very long way to go before law firms reflect the UK population.
Widening participation and success in the legal professions has been described as a problem with multiple systemic issues, of incredibly long duration and with no elegant, but instead very clumsy, solutions.
So, is this initiative yet another clumsy misstep or an elegant step forward? The initiative, being implemented in the US, has General Counsel publicly agreeing to make diversity a strong factor in their hiring and firing decision of outside counsel. Perhaps we should try this here in the UK?
“If it is only women talking about diversity, it becomes a women’s issue. If it is only ethnic people talking about diversity, it is an ethnic person’s issue,” he said. “Men need to be talking too because this is about how we ensure we get the very best talent in our companies.”