A wave of violence against lawyers is crippling the Philippines’ justice system

The slaying earlier this month of a prominent human rights lawyer in the Philippines who worked on behalf of poor suspects accused of drug-related crimes has sparked a renewed outcry over President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs. The lawyer, Benjamin Ramos, was gunned down by two unidentified assailants on Nov. 6—the 34th lawyer to be killed since Duterte took office in 2016. In an interview with WPR, Imelda Deinla, a research fellow at the Australian National University’s School of Regulation and Global Governance, explains why Philippine lawyers are being targeted and how this wave of violence is affecting the country’s legal institutions.

Read the full story from World Politics Review 


Education and Training in Ireland

In response to the report on Education and Training in Ireland published on 19 November by the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA), the Law Society of Ireland has launched the Peart Commission Report, developed by an expert group chaired by Mr Justice Michael Peart of the Court of Appeal.

The report contains 30 recommendations setting out a vision for the future of solicitor training in Ireland. Law Society of Ireland Director General Ken Murphy said, ‘training solicitors to meet any and all challenges they will face in their careers is some of the most important work the Law Society does. Mr Murphy explained, ‘implementing the Peart Commission recommendations will have several benefits. It will further increase access to the profession for trainees across diverse educational, professional and socio-economic backgrounds and ensure the Law Society maintains its prominent position as an innovative professional legal educator globally.’ He added, ‘the Law Society’s education model is deeply rooted in the public interest and focussed on the future.’

Law Society Report Available Here

LSRA Report Available Here*

*This report was required by the Legal Services Act 2015 and is the first step in a comprehensive review which will involve further public consultation in 2019.

The Legal Profession in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Since the 1979 Revolution, the clerical regime in Iran has been limiting the legal profession’s autonomy by preventing members of the Iranian Bar Association (IBA) from freely electing their Board of Directors and by establishing a new body of lawyers — legal advisors of the judiciary — to contest the IBA’s professional monopoly. Clerics have even attempted to bring the legal profession under the control of the Ministry of Justice and merge it with the legal advisors. The IBA’s struggle to remain a civil society organisation independent of the judiciary offers a vantage point from which to explore the role of the legal profession in Iranian society and the legal system of the Islamic Republic. Why does the Iranian judiciary oppose an independent legal profession, and why does the profession refuse to capitulate? What are the implications of this ongoing conflict for the legal order of the Islamic Republic, whose political elite consists mainly of Islamic jurists? What are the socio-cultural consequences of undermining the integrity and autonomy of the legal profession? These questions will guide our inquiry.

Download full paper

Citation: Banakar, Reza and Ziaee, Keyvan, The Legal Profession in the Islamic Republic of Iran (April 29, 2018). Lawyers in Society: Thirty Years On. Edited by Abel, Richard et al. Oxford: Hart Publishing, Forthcoming.

Solicitors Regulation Authority publishes research on trainee salaries

The SRA has released a new impact assessment looking at the deregulation of the prescribed SRA minimum salary for trainees. In 2014, the SRA removed the minimum salary levels for trainee solicitors. The previous levels of prescribed salary were replaced with a requirement for trainees to be paid at least the national minimum or living wage, with the idea that salaries should be set by market forces and the profession itself and that this could help increase the number of training contracts and access to the profession.

In particular the SRA wanted to find out about the impact on the distribution of salary levels of trainee solicitors and the association between salary and diversity and equality characteristics.

What was done?

  • Analysed data on 33,000 trainee solicitors, who started their training between January 2011 and December 2016;
  • Analysed the data of firms employing these trainees;
  • Assessed the relationship between trainees’ salary with the policy change, their diversity characteristics and firms who offer the training contracts;
  • Carried out online surveys aimed at employers, trainee solicitors and students, paralegals and others working in the legal sector, to seek their views on the impact, if any, of the removal of a prescribed minimum trainee salary.

Key Findings

Since the removal of the minimum trainee salary:

  • There has been an increase in the number of training contracts
  • Trainee pay has dropped, on average by £560 per year. The main cause of this has been a drop in the salary of the lowest earning trainees.
  • The majority of trainees (75%) and firms (82%) felt that the change had not had an impact (either positive or negative).
  • Trainees are now significantly more positive about salary levels than they were in 2012
  • The average pay gap between different ethnic groups has reduced significantly. This is mainly as a result of reductions in the salaries of White trainees. Black and Asian trainees are still generally paid less, as they are more likely to work in firms that pay less, such as sole practices and firms specialising in criminal, litigation or real estate work.
  • The average gender pay gap has increased slightly. Even taking account other factors such as the type of firm worked in, female trainees are still on average earning slightly less than males. The data did not provide evidence as to why this might be the case.

Read more about the SRA’s findings: Download Report

IBA Report: Women in Commercial Legal Practice

Executive summary

The term ‘feminisation of the legal profession’ is often used to describe changes in the legal profession. This is both a misnomer and misleading. Although women generally outnumber men in law schools, and have done so for a decade or more, men still outnumber women in senior positions in law firms. Indeed, women’s progression to senior positions and positions of authority within commercial law firms appears to have stalled.

The IBA Legal Policy and Research Unit (LPRU) undertook this project to obtain information regarding why women continue to experience barriers to the most senior positions in commercial law firms. The outcome of this work is disheartening. Although women’s participation in the legal profession increased significantly
from the 1980s, their representation as equity partners in law firms remains low, often less than 20
per cent. Discrimination against, and sexual harassment of, women continues to be a significant
problem. Many societies, developed and developing, continue to expect that women remain primarily
responsible for the home and children even when they are in full-time employment. These attitudes
are remarkably similar in both common law and civil law countries.

The ever-increasing demands of billable hours, the use of technology-enabling work to intrude
on lawyers’ time outside of work and the continued expectation that the ‘ideal legal worker’ must
commit him or herself ‘unconditionally’ to work is used to call into question women’s (among
others) commitment to their careers. Diversity policies, introduced ostensibly to help women in the
workplace, after 30 years have been found to be wanting. This is hardly surprising given that they were
designed to address the problem of women, not the workplace.

If law firms want to attract, retain and progress broader expertise – women, ethnic and generational
– then change is required. This requires the support of those in the most senior positions in law
firms; that is, men. The IBA LPRU encourages law firm management – that is, senior partners in
positions of authority – to conduct thorough reviews of the structure of their law firms, taking into
consideration the law firm culture, business practices (including billable hours), job allocation, pay
scales and professional ideology. Such an approach is critical to identifying the structural barriers that
impede the progress of women (and others).

It also encourages those in authority to own and oversee the implementation of relevant policies,
such as flexible working arrangements, rather than delegating responsibility for them to those who
most often have little power or authority, for example, non-fee earners.

Finally, the IBA LPRU encourages legal associations and law firms to develop and implement
programmes that encourage not only mentorship but also sponsorship. Mentorship is important,
but sponsorship is critical. Those who progress in law firms often are those who more senior lawyers,
in particular senior partners, actively sponsor. This sponsorship, however, is largely informal and
opaque. This further entrenches discriminatory practices. Formal and transparent sponsorship
programmes can go some way to addressing workplace inequities.

Download the report

Event: Diversity and inclusion in the legal profession – widening access, improving workplace culture and assessing new regulatory priorities

8 March 2018|Central London

This seminar will focus on the challenges and opportunities for law firms, regulators and wider stakeholders for improving diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.

Delegates will consider what more can be done to improve access to legal professions for candidates from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, looking at the role of the legal education and training framework, and issues around recruitment practices.

Find out more

Unlocking the benefits of diversity

Research undertaken by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (England and Wales) aims to shed light on what is being done, and what can be done, to improve the representation of female and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) solicitors in senior roles such as partners or directors.

The aim of the research was to understand what is being done, and what can be done, to improve the representation of female and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) solicitors in senior roles such as partners or directors. A diverse and inclusive profession is important to the SRA and the firms it regulates as it benefits both the providers and consumers of legal services. This is true at all levels of seniority within law firms.

Findings show that men are more likely to be working in a higher paid role in a larger firm and are more likely to be a partner/manager. There is also an under-representation of BAME individuals in larger firms including at partner/manager level.  Although real changes have been made over the last ten years with increasing numbers of female and BAME solicitors entering the profession, there is some concern that firms are not benefiting from the recruitment and retention of the most talented individuals, irrespective of their gender and ethnicity. This has an adverse financial and cultural impact on firms.

The approach the researchers took was to gather qualitative information from firms and individuals about career progression and diversity and inclusion. The review looks at the various drivers and motivations behind these career choices.

The overall picture is that firms have introduced several different practices to help improve diversity at senior levels. There were mixed views from respondents and interviewees about the success of some of these initiatives. The report highlights some good examples of what firms can do to achieve this.  Some of the highlighted examples require large amounts of resource and commitment that will not be available to all firms. However, the report also aims to show that developing an inclusive culture is not just about money. There are many things that all firms can do without going to a great deal of time or expense. The firm’s attitude is the most important thing here.

Read the full report

The Women and Men of Harvard Law School: Preliminary Results from the HLS Career Study

The Preliminary Report presents the results of the Harvard Law School Career Study (HLSCS), conducted by the school’s Center on the Legal Profession (CLP). Begun with a generous grant from a group of women alumnae in connection with the 55th celebration of the graduation of the school’s first female students in 1953, the study seeks to deepen the understanding of the career choices made by HLS graduates by providing for the first
time systematic empirical information about the careers trajectories of graduates from different
points in the school’s history. This report offers a first look at the Study’s findings about the salient similarities and differences between the careers of the school’s female and male graduates.

Limitations of findings

This is a study of the careers of students from a single law school—one that arguably occupies a
distinctive place in the marketplace. As a result, the experiences of Harvard Law School
graduates will undoubtedly differ in important ways from those of the graduates of other law
schools—just as the experiences of future graduates of all law schools are likely to differ from
those who have come before.

Nevertheless, it is hoped that this systematic look at the similarities and differences in the careers
of a group of women and men who have admittedly had unique opportunities to build successful
and satisfying careers will provide an important reference point for those seeking to ensure that
the legal profession achieves greater gender equality for all lawyers in the coming decades.

Link to the full report

Wilkins, David B. and Fong, Bryon and Dinovitzer, Ronit, The Women and Men of Harvard Law School: The Preliminary Results from the HLS Career Study (May 22, 2015). HLS Center on the Legal Profession Research Paper No. 2015-6. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2609499 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2609499

Centralised assessment seen widening choice, lowering barriers

Proposals to centralise the assessment of would-be solicitors in England and Wales are highly likely to increase the number, and broaden the range, of training providers in the market, according to a report published by the Bridge Group.

The report, based on 18 individual and group, semi-structured interviews (25 participants in total) with a representative range of employers and training providers, also found that Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) proposals to introduce a centralised assessment process would likely trigger the rise of new models of training, including new forms of online provision.

Commissioned by the SRA, the independent report concludes that, by broadening the range of training options for would-be solicitors, the proposals should enable students to “chart more flexible pathways” to qualification, thus supporting diversity in the legal profession.

By stimulating competition in the legal education training market, the SRA’s proposals may also put downward pressure on prices, thus reducing the impact of cost as a barrier to qualification, write the report’s authors.

The Bridge Group is a charitable policy association researching and promoting diversity in education and the professions in the United Kingdom.

Introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination: Monitoring and maximising diversity


Equity and Diversity in Nova Scotia’s Entity Regulation Management System

This paper was prepared for the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society as part of its programme to transform regulation. The paper sets out the equity mandate of the Society, and emphasizes that institutional continuity requires these values not be lost in the transition to entity regulation. It articulates the case for equity and diversity in entity regulation, and demonstrates that equity is fundamental in achieving access to justice. It identifies opportunities for equity and diversity to inform the regulatory framework, and discusses next steps to ensure equity becomes internalized both at the Society and within the entities it regulates.

Equity and Diversity in Nova Scotia