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Law firms urged to act on diversity

Posted by: Laurence Simons 10/02/14

There should be more opportunities for black and ethnic minority groups within law firms, according to a statement made by Labour MP and social mobility campaigner Diane Abbott.

The MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington spoke at an event hosted by Magic Circle firm Pinsent Masons, which has launched a number of diversity-focused campaigns over the last few years.

Ms Abbot - who was the first black woman to be elected to the House of Commons when she became an MP in 1987 - told lawyers that legal organisations in the UK are lagging behind their American counterparts when it comes to diversity.

"The legal profession is well-placed to influence both through its words and its deeds. It is therefore incumbent on the legal community to move as fast and as far as it can to address the inequality of opportunity that still exists, starting in its own back yard," she added.

Pinsent Masons was recently named among the top 100 employers in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index for the sixth consecutive year, so it can bask in the warming light of moral superiority when it comes to diversity issues in this area.

However, improving access to the legal profession for people from low-income backgrounds remains a major issue for the sector, as does dealing with racial and gender-specific diversity.

If law firms are to access the best talent available to them, they must ensure that measures are in place to allow people from all backgrounds to pursue a legal career.

But a recent poll from the Solicitors Regulation Authority revealed that one in five legal organisations did not submit their diversity data in time, although they are unlikely to face any serious disciplinary action for the delay.

The survey, prompted by demands from oversight regulator the Legal Services Board, asks for information on the gender, race and sexuality of people working at law firms in England and Wales.