The Nederlandse Orde van Advocaten (NOvA), has recently introduced a new platform designed to promote an inclusive and diverse bar. In 2018, the NOvA drew up a diversity and inclusion statement, the platform is designed to implement and practice some of the recommendations that came out from the statement. There are currently 37 lawyers who are signed up to the platform.
Together with the NOvA, the participating lawyers in working groups will investigate options and put forward proposals for promoting (awareness of) diversity and inclusion within the legal profession. Issues such as:
- How can we ensure that more law students with different cultural and/or ethnic backgrounds feel attracted to the legal profession?
- Once they join the bar, how do we ensure that they stay?
- Wider issues in the field of inclusion and diversity within the legal profession?
In addition to (online) meetings, a digital community is being developed for mutual communication and knowledge sharing between the platform participants.
Read more about the platform here (in Dutch).
On the 16th February, the American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession today released its 2020 ABA Model Diversity Survey Report, the first report focused on diversity, equity and inclusion within law firm practices in the USA.
The Model Diversity Survey (MDS), was developed in 2016, and is designed to give clients the tools to review and assess diversity, equity and inclusion of the legal service providers and to make decisions regarding hiring and retention. It assesses firm policies, practices and outcomes regarding hiring, attrition, promotion, leadership, work schedules and compensation. The MDS Report includes 2017-19 data from more than 370 law firms.
Some of the findings of the survey were that:
- Firm leadership was overwhelmingly made up of white men relative to white women and racial, LGBTQ+ and disabled minorities of any gender identity.
- Hires and promotions/attrition suggest that representation of minority groups is growing at the bottom levels of associates but is declining at the higher levels of non-equity and equity partners.
- Attrition rates were substantially larger for nonwhite attorneys (e.g., nearly three times larger for African American/Black and Hispanic/Latino attorneys) relative to white attorneys.
- The percentage of white associates promoted to equity partner was slightly higher than the percentage of white associates promoted to non-equity partner. This pattern was reversed for female associates, and the associates of all other racial minority groups which displayed larger percentages promoted to non-equity partner than to equity partner.
- Minority males and females consistently ranged between 0% to 2% of the top 10% highest-paid attorneys in law firms.
The full report can be viewed here.
The Law Society of Scotland has launched a new group on Racial Inclusion, headed up by Tatora Mukushi, a solicitor with Shelter Scotland, who has been appointed as the first convener of the group.
The group has been formed by the Law Society, with the goal of forming a better understanding of the lived and professional experiences of its Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) members and to offer recommendations on how to improve racial inclusion across the profession.
The group plans to revisit the Profile of the Profession, and to undertake a literature review of other data sources that may provide insight into improving racial inclusion; undertaking research with BAME law students, trainees and solicitors; and speaking to other stakeholders within the profession, such as firms and universities, on best practice, challenges and how to overcome such challenges. With the goal of providing a report on their findings with recommendations late in 2021.
Tatora Mukushi, convener of the Racial Inclusion Group, said: “I am personally and professionally delighted that the Law Society is tackling this issue in a genuinely participatory manner. Our group will combine analysis of historical and contemporary data with relevant lived experience in order to honestly reflect the social dilemma of racial inclusion within the profession and we hope to be able to suggest pragmatic actions to advance this progressive agenda.”
As convener of the Group, Tatora will also be the Law Society’s representative on the Scottish Government’s Cross-Justice Working Group on Race and Workforce.
Find out more about the new group here.
Let’s admit it, harassment and bullying are endemic in the practice of law. Horacio Benardes Neto, the President of the International Bar Association (IBA), made this observation in introducing an IBA report, called Us Too: Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession. Published last year, the report was based on findings from the largest-ever global survey of nearly 7,000 legal professionals in 135 countries. The survey revealed that one in three female respondents and one in fourteen male respondents had been sexually harassed at work. Additionally, one in two female respondents and one in three male respondents reported being bullied at work.
Fortney, Susan Saab, Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in the Legal Profession: The Significance of Giving Voice and Listening to Persons Who Experience Discrimination, Bias, and Harassment (May 20, 2020). JOTWELL (May 20, 2020) (reviewing Veronica Root Martinez, Combating Silence in the Profession, 105 Va. L. Rev. 805 (2019)), Texas A&M University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Forthcoming,
Read the full article on SSRN.
As part of its wider work on providing clear reporting on the operational aspects of its work, the Solicitors Regulation Authority of England and Wales (SRA) have published their second annual report on their enforcement activities. The ‘Upholding Professional Standards’ report summarises the handling of over 9,500 reports and 3,600 investigations in the 2018/19 period. Particularly looking at issues such as sexual harassment, the use of non-disclosure agreements, and money laundering.
The report includes a review of the diversity characteristics of solicitors involved in the enforcement processes over the course of the year. This includes those reported to, investigated by, or who have had action taken against them by either the SRA or the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).
Key findings of the review include:
- 26% of concerns raised with the SRA related to black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) solicitors, while 18% of the overall solicitor population is BAME. This figure rose to 32% in cases that were investigated.
- 67% of concerns raised with the SRA related to men, whereas 49% of the overall solicitor population is male. This figure rose to 73% in cases that were investigated.
- Cases concluded by the SRA or at the SDT for ethnicity were in line with the representation seen at the investigation stage, with a further uplift to 85% for findings against men at the tribunal.
The data available for disability was very limited, making meaningful analysis difficult.
Anna Bradley, Chair of the SRA said: “We are committed to transparently reporting the details of our operational work and I am pleased that this year we have been able to include the profile of people in our enforcement processes. This again shows an over-representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic solicitors, and men, in both the concerns raised with us and then investigated, when compared to the diversity of the profession as a whole. We must look at what is happening here. We have made significant changes to our enforcement processes and reformed our regulation over the last few years, but the picture remains the same and it is unclear why that is the case. Since 2007 we have held three independent reviews into our processes to make sure they are fair and free from bias and none found any evidence of issues with our processes. Notwithstanding this, we will look again at our decision making. Importantly we think it is now time to also examine why we are seeing so many more concerns about BAME solicitors reported to us than should be the case in the light of the profile of the profession. It is a picture seen across many regulators; some of the potential factors may be wider societal issues and others may be particular to the legal sector. So we will commission independent research in this complex area, reaching out to the profession, key groups and expert voices as we shape this work.”
Read the report here, or more about the SRA’s comments here.
The Solicitor’s Regulation Authority of England and Wales (SRA) has published video recordings of its 2020 conference on the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). The SQE is a new qualification system being implemented in England and Wales over the course of this year.
Conference topics included provider and firm strategies around the changes, changes to qualifying work experience, and how the changes will affect diversity in the profession.
View the full conference recording here.
Much has been written about how automation will change the legal profession as a whole, less so about how automation might affect women in legal practice. This paper briefly maps the likely changes that legal tech (legal technology) will bring to the provision of legal services, and explores how these changes might affect the barriers to advancement that women face in the profession. It determines that, while the use of legal tech may improve women’s work/life balance and overall job satisfaction by bringing about more flexible working hours, positive changes to the billing hours’ system, and fairer hiring and promotion mechanisms, an unfettered inclusion of legal tech might lead to increased working hours for less wages, increased competition for case files among associates, and the perpetuation of existing gender biases when using algorithms in the hiring and promotion process. Finally, the paper makes several recommendations on how law societies, bar associations and other relevant regulatory bodies could ensure that legal tech promotes rather than hinders Equality & Diversity in the legal profession. It proposes that:
(1) detailed data on men and women lawyers should be collected to better inform equality and diversity policies;
(2) law firms should be required to report on their progress in pursuing equality and diversity;
(3) management techniques to promote work/life balance and more flexible pricing systems should be encouraged;
(4) female entrepreneurship in legal tech should be promoted; and,
(5) technological due process procedures should be required when using algorithms in law firm management to ensure fairness, accuracy and accountability
Munisami, Kayal, Legal Technology and the Future of Women in Law (2019). 36 Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice 164, 2019.
Read the full article on SSRN.
A new study conducted by the Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association has revealed substantial and widespread levels of student debt and demonstrated a harmful effect on junior members of the profession in the US.
The survey has found that:
- Over 75% of respondents had at least $100,000 in student loans at graduation
- Over 50% had more than $150,000 in student loans
- Over 25% had $200,000 or more in student loans
More than 1,000 newer lawyers and recent law school graduates completed the survey, which was conducted March 1-31, 2020.
The survey data reveal six key themes:
- Nearly all law school graduates are impacted by student loan debt, with only a few exceptions
- For many students, their debt continues to grow after graduation
- Student loans deeply impact the personal lives and decisions of new lawyers
- Student loans force lawyers to take unwanted career paths
- Student loans take a disproportionate toll on lawyers from minority backgrounds
- Student loans are negatively affecting mental health
The report has suggested that more must be done around the issue of law student debt, in order to encourage a healthy and diverse profession. The report makes suggestions including giving students advice on how to manage debt, both financially and mentally, as well as exploring alternative financing models for law schools.
Read the full report and the survey published by the ABA.
The Law Society of Singapore has announced the release of “Levelling the Playing Field”, its first-ever report into gender diversity and inclusion in the Singapore legal profession.
The data for the report has been gathered over the course of the past two years and examines the experience of female practitioners across the profession,
The data involved was collected from over 500 female members of the Singapore legal profession, as well as a series of roundtable sessions with participation from (i) female lawyers across all seniority levels; (ii) managing partners, hiring managers, and recruiting partners (both male and female); and (iii) male lawyers.
The report also includes recommendations from the Women in Practice (WIP) Committee on mentorship and sponsorship; flexible work arrangements; training and awareness of unconscious bias; and addressing sexual harassment and bullying.
WIP Committee Co-Chairperson, Simran Toor, says: “More can be done for women lawyers in Singapore, at all levels of seniority and experience. While the data did not reveal any prevalent problems with harassment or bullying, which is encouraging, it did reveal that unconscious bias remains a deeply rooted issue within the legal practice. There are still strong misperceptions that an equal playing field is available to both genders, that progression is purely a function of merit, and that the larger number of male lawyers at senior levels is due to independent choice-making by female lawyers to leave the profession, rather than any form of unconscious bias or inequality.”
Felicia Tan, Co-Chairperson of the WIP Committee, adds: “There is also a lack of understanding on how diversity in the workplace and embracing flexible working arrangements could translate to commercial benefit; with many still believing that diversity initiatives are rooted only in altruism or inconsistent with the ideals of meritocracy. This pandemic has also shown how flexible working arrangements need not undercut productivity. We hope that the contents of this Report will raise awareness of the issues amongst members of the legal profession so that the Singapore legal profession can attract and retain the best talent, both male and female.”
Read the full report here.
The State Bar’s “First Annual Report Card on the Diversity of California’s Legal Profession,” (PDF) provides baseline data on the diversity and workplace satisfaction of California’s attorney population across multiple demographic groups and employment sectors. The report brings into stark reality that despite significant growth in the proportion of attorneys who are women and people of color over the past 30 years, California’s attorney population remains far from reflective of the state’s diversity.
Among the Report Card’s key findings:
- White attorneys account for nearly 70 percent of California’s active licensed attorney population, while people of color constitute 60 percent of the state’s population.
- Latinos are particularly underrepresented in California’s legal profession, accounting for a mere 7 percent of active attorneys.
- In the last three decades, the proportion of new attorneys who are Asian or multiracial has more than tripled, and the proportion of new Latino attorneys has doubled, but the proportion of new attorneys who are Black has remained stagnant.
- Nearly three-quarters of California attorneys work in the private sector. Increasing the diversity of this sector alone will have a transformative impact on the profession.
- The government and nonprofit sectors, which together make up only 17 percent of the profession, are the most diverse, but women and people of color remain underrepresented at leadership levels in these sectors.
- Women, people of color, LGBTQIA+, and people with disabilities consistently report lower levels of satisfaction with workplace experiences, such as salary and opportunities for advancement and career development, than their white male counterparts.
California Bar Exam Strategies and Stories Program
An online learning program designed to help applicants prepare for the California Bar Exam is showing promising results, measurably increasing the likelihood of passing the exam, a two-year analysis indicates. Researchers found that the California Bar Exam Strategies and Stories Program increased the likelihood of participants passing the bar exam ranging between 6.8 to 9.6 percentage points, controlling for other factors. The impact was even higher for applicants in disadvantaged groups, including those in underrepresented racial/ethnic populations and those who are first-generation college students.