Legal Services Board of England and Wales releases diversity dashboard for England and Wales profession

The Legal Services Board of England and Wales (LSB), which acts as the oversight regulator for professional frontline regulators in England and Wales has released a dashboard of diversity statistics collected from each of the frontline regulators it oversees, alongside the publication of an independent report into regulator diversity. The report was produced by the Bridge Group, an independent consultancy focused on diversity and inclusion, and is focused on evaluating the success of regulatory interventions and the success of evaluative indicators used by regulators following diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Findings from the report include:

  • Legal regulators should use the data they collect about the professionals they regulate to inform and evaluate their diversity and inclusion initiatives.
  • Similar challenges face regulators in other sectors, indicating that the legal services sector is no different to other professional sectors in the slow pace of change in improving diversity.
  • To improve the limited evaluation of initiatives the report recommends the use of the theory of change model, or similar, for a more systematic approach.

Based on the findings of the report the LSB has urged legal regulators to do more to understand what is and is not working in terms of diversity initiatives, in order to encourage greater diversity and inclusion in the sector, as well as focusing on what is making a meaningful difference for professionals and consumers.

The diversity dashboard has been produced to facilitate better information sharing and improve transparency between the regulators. It brings together the latest diversity data collected by the regulators on the people they regulate.  It is now easier to compare different parts of the regulated sector. Data includes the proportion of; women employed, age, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and attendance at a fee-paying school. The dashboard will be expanded in the coming months to include information on how the diversity of the professions differ at entry and at senior levels over time.

Dr Helen Phillips, Chair of the Legal Services Board, has said: “The LSB and the legal regulators share the statutory objective of encouraging an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal services sector. However, despite the positive intentions over the last few years, there has been little progress on improving diversity of our sector. On the whole, regulators have been successful at collecting diversity data, however, data is not an end in itself. Understanding what initiatives have the greatest impact is essential if we are to see a radical change in the diversity of the legal profession. Evaluation must be a core part of deciding which regulatory interventions to make. The Independent Bridge Group report that we commissioned highlights that there has been little collaboration on diversity and inclusion. We want to help change that and a key part of our approach will be to work with regulators to encourage information sharing and cohesion to address these sector-wide issues. It is clear that the challenges we face are so complex and far-reaching that tackling them requires a concerted effort. By collaborating with others across the sector, we will support a profession that reflects the society it serves and that meets consumers’ differing needs.”

Read the full report here, or view the diversity dashboard here.

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California State Bar Board of Trustees approve updated law school accreditation rules

At its meeting on May 13, 2021, the California State Bar Board of Trustees adopted new accreditation rules for California accredited law schools. The new rules will come into effect on January 1st, 2022, with law schools required to demonstrate compliance by January 1, 2024, and are designed to incorporate best practices and provide a framework to recognise law schools that are accredited by regional or national accreditors. As well as these rules aim to focus accreditation on its essential purpose, rather than creating extraneous requirements.

Donna Hershkowitz, Interim Executive Director of the State Bar has said.“This effort is the latest example in the State Bar’s many efforts to broaden access to quality legal education in our diverse state. The new accreditation rules will ensure that law schools and the State Bar are focusing on what matters most to ensure positive student outcomes and ultimately support our efforts to protect the public.”

California is one of the few states in the USA that permits accreditation other than by the American Bar Association (ABA), and offers more separate pathways into qualification as a lawyer than any other state. Currently, nearly two dozen law schools are directly accredited by  the California Bar, with the goal of offering accessible, affordable, and flexible options for law students.

The revised rules further four key purposes for accreditation of California law schools:

  1. Consumer protection and transparency;
  2. Student success;
  3. Diversity, equity, and inclusion; and
  4. Preparation for licensure and professionalism.

The approval of the rules, which comes as a culmination of two years of work by the Committee of Bar Examiners and the Committee of State Bar Accredited and Registered Schools. The aim of the reforms is to create a clear, understandable public protection framework for accreditation in keeping with the State Bar’s mission. Each provision in the revamped rules describes a specific, measurable action designed to fulfill one or more of these purposes. Prior accreditation requirements that did not further any of these specific purposes were eliminated, and new requirements were added to ensure that schools are meeting these goals.

Read more about the Board of Trustees meeting here, or read the new rules here.

 

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American Bar Association releases new report on the challenges faced by female lawyers

A newly released American Bar Association (ABA) report entitled, “In Their Own Words: Experienced Women Lawyers Explain Why They Are Leaving Their Law Firms and the Profession,” aims to shed light on factors that affect career decision making amongst experienced female lawyers.  This includes information on why practitioners choose to remain in practice, move to a different job within the law or step out of the profession altogether after 15 or more years of practice.

The report was written by Joyce Sterling, a professor at the Sturm College of Law in Denver, and Linda Chanow, executive director of the Center for Women in Law at the University of Texas. The report includes analysis on the components that advance or impede long-term careers for female lawyers. The research was carried out via focus groups in six cities across the USA, as well as through individual interviews, with comments made during the interviews including:

“You give me the hardest problems to solve, but you tell me I am less important with the compensation you give me.”

“I don’t feel like I have anyone in a position of power who can personally relate to me.”

“[T]he power dynamic is very real. . . [P]eople are very uncomfortable when women lean into their power.”

The report includes recommendations designed to increase retention of female attorneys which include:

  • Assess the impact of firm policies and practices on female lawyers.
  • Take steps to ensure there is a critical mass of female partners on key firm committees.
  • Increase lateral hiring of female partners.
  • Provide resources to relieve pressures from family obligations.
  • Be flexible to support changing practices.

ABA President Patricia Lee Refo has said.“This report highlights the ongoing systemic barriers women still face in the legal profession. These women’s personal stories are eye-opening, and the recommendations illustrate the changes we need to make to support and advance all female lawyers.”

Read the full report here, or read more here.

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Bar Standards Board publishes independent review of 2020 qualifying exams

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has published the results of an independent review of the August 2020 Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) exams, the exams used by the Board as part of the qualification process for barristers. The review was commissioned by the BSB in November 2020 and was conducted by Professor Rebecca Huxley-Binns, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) of the University of Hull and Dr Sarabajaya Kumar, an interdisciplinary social scientist based at University College London, who is also an equalities consultant and a disability activist.

The Review found that candidates experienced a number of different challenges, including difficulty in changing to computer-based assessments and challenges related to online proctoring,  when sitting the examination remotely in August 2020, due to a variety of different factors. Based on these the review makes a number of recommendations, which have been collated by the BSB into an examination action plan, designed to ensure that changes are actioned.  The Action Plan is grouped into five main themes and includes measures to:

  • improve the BSB’s communication and engagement with students and training providers;
  • make the centralised assessments more accessible and inclusive, particularly when candidates require reasonable adjustments;
  • make the BSB’s approach to policy and process development in this area more inclusive by improving the regulator’s engagement with key stakeholders;
  • introduce a critical incidents policy and improve data protection and project management;
  • clarify the roles and responsibilities of the BSB and training providers in the management of the centralised.

Responding to the Review, the Chair of the BSB, Baroness Tessa Blackstone, said

“First and foremost, I should like to apologise again to all those students who faced difficulties completing their exams last August. The BSB had to move from pen and paper based assessments delivered by training providers to arrange computer based assessments in a very short period of time in the middle of a global pandemic. Ordinarily, such a change would have taken at least 12 months to plan and to pilot. I am pleased that the report finds that the BSB was right to seek to offer computer based assessments and right to contract with Pearson VUE to deliver the exams, including to run remote proctoring for the students sitting the exams online and to book testing centre spaces for students unable to take the exams remotely. Around 75% of BPTC exams were completed but far too many students faced difficulties which should never have occurred. The BSB’s staff worked very hard to implement the new arrangements for the exams but we very much regret that many students had a difficult experience both in booking and sitting the exams. The Board has welcomed the Review by Professor Huxley-Binns and Dr Kumar. It has approved the Executive’s proposed Action Plan and will ensure that the Review’s recommendations are put into effect. The Board has discussed the Action Plan with Professor Huxley-Binns and Dr Kumar and they fully endorse the Plan as meeting the recommendations in their Review. I am pleased that the Review found no failure of governance. The Board is determined to ensure that the BSB learns the lessons for the future. Those lessons will be of great help to the BSB and to future students. We are very grateful to all those who have contributed to this Review and I should like once again to repeat my apology to those who had difficulties last August.”

Read the BSB’s comments here, or read the full review here.

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Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System releases guides to cut through bias in legal hiring and improve legal education outcomes

The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS), has released two new guides designed to explain innovative ways for legal educators and legal employers to implement data-driven, outcomes-based standards underpinned by IAALS’ Foundations for Practice research. The guides are based on  a survey of 24,000 lawyers and working sessions with 36 employers and 4 law schools and aim to provide law schools with a path to train better lawyers and employers a path to hire and retain the best lawyers.

Logan Cornett, IAALS Director of Research has said “The Foundations guides are a natural continuation of Foundations for Practice, launched in 2014. We conducted the largest study of its kind to identify the characteristics, competencies, and skills—what we call foundations—that new lawyers need to be successful. Now, as our country reckons with systemic racism, implicit bias, a shifting economy, and lack of access to justice, the Foundations data and tools provide new ways for the legal profession to rise to the occasion.”

By targeting both legal education and legal employment, Foundations aims to implement wholesale reform. The IAALS has identified what it sees as a cycle of tradition: teaching classes the way they always have been taught and hiring lawyers based on where they went to law school and their class rank. The empirical research of Foundations provides pathways for schools and law firms to evolve and better ensure the success for all new lawyers, but especially for those who are less advantaged because of race, gender, or socioeconomic background.

The Foundations Instructional Design Guide is for educators who want to improve their curriculum by designing and implementing learning outcomes and standards-based assessments. Through close review of course objectives, defining desired learning outcomes from students, and assessments.

The Foundations Hiring Guide is for employers who want to improve their hiring practices—to improve quality, retention, and diversity. Through close review of hiring criteria, designing objective ways to assess candidates for hire, and creating accountability measures.

Read more about the guides here, or access the instructional design guide, or the hiring guide.

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Understanding and Interpreting Law School Enrolment Data

Abstract

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) has a long-standing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in legal education and in the legal profession. In line with its mission to promote quality, access, and equity in legal education, LSAC is providing a report, Understanding and Interpreting Law School Enrollment Data: A Focus on Race and Ethnicity, to help law schools, admission professionals, and other legal education stakeholders understand how we are measuring who is in the pipeline. The purpose of the report is to inform conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion in law school and recruitment efforts. The report outlines the history of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) data reporting standards, how these differ from LSAC data collection and reporting practices, and the social and cultural implications of different race and ethnicity data collection and reporting methods. The report includes examples of how the different methods affect conclusions that can be drawn from analyses of subgroup trends over time.

Bodamer, Elizabeth and Dustman, Kimberly and Langer, Debra and Walzer, Mark and Camilli, Gregory and Gallagher, Ann, Understanding and Interpreting Law School Enrollment Data (October 15, 2020).
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Event: Inclusion and Diversity at the Bar

May 19, 2021

Online

In conjunction with the Employed Barristers’ Committee of the Bar Council, BACFI has invited our Director General Mark Neale to speak about his involvement with the our Reverse Mentoring Scheme as a mentee along with student Agatha Rockson who is a mentor, in the hope that more students and barristers will be encouraged to take part in this initiative.

Srishti Suresh from Bridging the Bar will be speaking about how the charity supports students from non-traditional and underrepresented backgrounds to access the Bar and how those at the Employed Bar can help with the programmes and initiatives they are running.

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Recognizing Another Black Barrier: The LSAT Contributes to the Diversity Gap in the Legal Profession

Abstract

Imagine working your entire life with the purpose of building the house of your dreams. The ability to pursue this “calling” has been granted through your tremendous hard-work and dedication to your craft. In fact, building this dream home has been the final culmination of all that you have worked towards over the past several years. Now imagine, you have successfully built the foundation of the house, and began to lay the pipeline for the plumbing. Just as the plumbing was coming together, there was one exact piece that was missing, a coupling, which would be required to connect the pipes. Since pipelines are the heartbeat of all functionality within a house, without the coupling, the incomplete plumbing may diminish the potential of all that your dream house was meant to become. Thus, hindering the dream.

Similarly to a person that has a dream of becoming a lawyer. The ability to pursue this calling would be directed through the education pipeline. After obtaining an Undergraduate degree through tremendous amount of hard-work and dedication, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), a coupling to the next education pipeline, is required for applicants to take when applying to law school. But, what if the LSAT is a faulty coupling that presents a major leak in the education pipeline? This standardize test has revealed years of racial bias from the disturbing score gaps between white and minority applicants. The LSAT has shown to have test biases within the questions that appear in the form of language interpretation, which contains culturally stereotypic language, situations, and structural components. As a result of these biases, there has been a disproportionate amount of lower scores by minorities, which hinders the chances of being accepted into law school. Thus, presenting a leak in the education pipeline that disconnects minorities from achieving their dreams of practicing law.

Because of COVID-19, the Law School Admission Council is offering the LSAT online, remotely proctored in place of being in-person. This unexpected change should bring discussion in today’s society about the overreliance on LSAT performance. Institutions should develop new and equitable means to evaluate an applicant’s ability to do well in law school, without disproportionately excluding minorities. Without admission modifications, minorities will continue to remain at a disadvantage when applying to law school.

McDuffie, Shaniqua Lynee McDuffie, Recognizing Another Black Barrier: The LSAT Contributes to the Diversity Gap in the Legal Profession (April 9, 2021).

Read the full article on SSRN.

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California State Bar publishes second biennial report on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession

On the 15th March 2021, the California State Bar published its second biennial report on the progress of its work programmes designed to further diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in California’s legal profession over the last two years.

The report sits against the backdrop of the Bar’s ongoing work on diversity. The Bar’s statutory mission specifies that public protection includes supporting greater access to, and inclusion in, the legal profession, whilst the state’s fee bill (2018) directed the State Bar to implement a plan to increase diversity in the legal profession and provide biennial reports to the Legislature on this topic. In 2019, the State Bar adopted nine concrete DEI objectives as part of its Five-Year Strategic Plan. The report has been written to review the progress of the bar against these objectives.

Key accomplishments raised in the report are:

  • The publication of the first Annual Report Card on the Diversity of California’s Legal Profession, including both key diversity data points;
  • Completing a groundbreaking study on racial disparities in the attorney discipline system and implementing measures to address these findings;
  • Launching the California Bar Exam Strategies and Stories Program, a positive mindset intervention that has since proven to increase California Bar Exam scores for test takers of color; and
  • Convening sector-specific diversity summits to respond to report card results and identify action steps in response to the State Bar’s calls to action.

Donna Hershkowitz, Interim Executive Director has said “As the largest legal regulatory agency in the country and one uniquely charged with addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion as part of its mission, the State Bar takes seriously its role and opportunity to impact the profession in our state as well as the national conversation on inclusion and justice for all. Over the last two years, the State Bar has undertaken a wide array of DEI initiatives impacting prospective and current licensees, its many partners and stakeholders, and its internal culture. We are engaged in meaningful and substantive DEI work with an eye towards making real

Read the full report here. 

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Simple Ways to Increase Diversity at the English Bar

Abstract

This note sets out simple ways to increase diversity at the English Bar, using the existing setup of the English Bar, but tweaking some small aspects, so without introducing any major structural changes. What this in turn means is that these ways should be easy to implement, given the collective will.

The starting point of this analysis is considering the 2 paths to becoming a practitioner at the English Bar. The primary path involves completion of an approved pupillage (i.e. formal legal apprenticeship) at a set of barristers’ chambers. The secondary path involves transfer across from another approved profession, such as the Solicitors or Legal Executives, plus completion of approved experience and required qualifying exams.

The number of students qualifying into the English Bar each year through the primary pupillage route is less than 600. (This number is currently restricted both through the limited availability of sufficiently well-funded pupillages, and by optimal Bar profession size, ceteris paribus). The total number of practicing English Bar barristers is more than 16,000. So, the number of new barristers per practicing barrister per year is less than 1 per 30 working barristers, implying an approximate, steady-state, average career length per practicing barrister of c.25+ years.

Suppose, for simplicity, that we assume as a standardized model that all barristers work in average size sets of 30 barristers (in reality there is a long tail, power law distribution so most sets are much smaller down to standalone practitioners) and each model set takes one pupil per year for a combined 1st + 2nd 6 pupillage, leading to tenancy. Suppose also that we are considering a diversity subset, say an ethnic group, that makes up 10% of all pupillage candidates. Then one would expect, absent any bias or other factors, each model set to appoint one of the diversity pupils every 10 years on average, and the average waiting time for one diverse pupil to get pupillage at that model set, to be 5 years. So, it would need many years of observations to be able to conclude statistically, even just on the balance of probabilities test, that any individual chambers viewed in isolation was operating a biased (including implicitly or inadvertently biased) policy, if it in fact never, ever, appointed any diversity pupillage candidates. Furthermore, if all sets fell into this category then they could all end up operating in a systematically biased way, without ever actively coordinating, or being held individually accountable for this.

The recommended solution in this example is to pool chambers together up to a sufficiently larger combined scale, say into 20 chambers in a pool. (This essentially applies and exploits aspects of the so-called “law of large numbers”). Each pool would thus be chosen so that it was expected to appoint 2 of the diversity candidates to pupillage per year on average. Normal variation would be 1-3 per year, but zero per pool per year would need to be remedied immediately by an error-correction policy of say appointment of a good diversity candidate from a reserved list, and/or imposition of a substantial fine on that pool.

How the chambers in each pool managed the allocation of the appointments of the diversity pupil candidates between their constituent sets could vary e.g., by new policies, agreement, rota, lottery, etc, as long as the method chosen was within the law. The key would then be to mandate and monitor at the right granular scale that this pool approach was being applied, and getting the desired results.

Under the second method, the perceived diversity shortfall at the Bar could be offset by an increased incentive, perhaps using reduced fees, discounts and scholarships, and increased experience recognition for diversity candidates to cross over more easily from other professions to the Bar. There are of course many dimensions of diversity that could be quickly tackled in this way including across ethnicity, gender and age.

Macey-Dare, Rupert, Simple Ways to Increase Diversity at the English Bar (March 4, 2021).

Read the full article on SSRN.

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