Firms and chambers to be required to publish diversity data on websites

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has approved controversial plans to force law firms and barristers’ chambers to publish internal diversity and social mobility statistics on their websites.

Firms and chambers will be required to publish data on their websites about the socio-economic background, age, race, and gender of their workforce, as well as information about disabilities.

However, the LSB has stepped back from earlier proposals that would have included a requirement to publish details about religion or sexuality.

The LSB, which approved the plans earlier this month (13 July), is hoping that making the information available to clients will put pressure on firms to further improve access to the profession.

The information will also be collated across the industry by approved regulators such as the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which will submit action plans on how to implement their proposals to the LSB in January 2012, with the first round of publication due to take place in December 2012.

The regulators will also collate sexuality and religious information, with the full picture to be used by the LSB in its efforts to boost social mobility and diversity in the profession.

LSB chief executive Chris Kenny (pictured) said: “Improving the diversity of the legal profession at access level continues to be a priority, but we also need to look at progression and retention across all levels of the workforce.

He added: “While there are some positive initiatives in place, greater transparency is needed to maintain momentum, measure progress and better inform consumers. This commitment to the publication of diversity surveys should help to ensure that the workforce better reflects communities from which it is drawn and will contribute to driving social mobility in England and Wales”.

The proposals, initially reported in February after a consultation launched in December last year, were backed by charities including Mencap, Sense and Sutton Trust.

However they were criticised by charities such as Stonewall, which flagged the risk of inadvertently ‘outing’ gay, bisexual or transgender lawyers, with the LSB therefore removing the requirement to publish details of religion and sexuality.