Potential causes of differential outcomes by ethnicity in legal professional assessments

The University of Exeter has published the results of a study commissioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority of England and Wales, which seeks to explore the reasons behind varying legal qualification outcomes among students of different ethnicities. The research revealed that these differences are likely to stem from a complex interaction of factors including social, economic and educational factors. Combined, these create barriers to access and progression for candidates from minority ethnicities at all stages of the qualification process.

Key findings include the impact of socioeconomic background on education opportunities and the experience of discrimination and bias that minority ethnic students face, which affect their academic performance and professional progression.

The study also noted the importance of representation within legal education and access to legal work experience, which are often less accessible to minority ethnic students, perpetuating disparities. The report calls for collective efforts and collaborative actions, recommending that legal education providers increase diversity among staff and improve support systems for minority ethnic students. Law firms are urged to foster inclusive cultures and adopt contextual recruitment strategies.

The report makes recommendations for all stakeholders involved and highlights the need for the regulator to play a role as a change-maker, promoting information and challenging current practice through the publication of data on the progression of minority ethnic candidates throughout the academic and employment stages of qualifying as a solicitor.

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