CLSB urges Costs Lawyers to consider business case for diversity

The Costs Lawyers Standards Board (CLSB) has urged Costs Lawyers to consider the business case for improving diversity and take action to ensure they address barriers for entering and progressing in the profession.

This was important even for sole practitioners, “since they will encounter diversity and inclusion issues in engagement with their clients and in their supply chains”.

The CLSB has collaborated with the Solicitors Regulation Authority to produce a guide, The Business Case for Diversity, which is based on the latter’s own publication in February 2018.

The guide noted the “growing evidence about the positive relationship between diversity and commercial performance”, and highlighted how a diversity of views and approaches improved the administration of justice and firms’ understanding of the market.

“Some lawyers, and the firms they work in, are taking positive actions to address differences in the balance of gender, ethnicity and sexuality, and to improve social mobility and the support given to disabled staff. However, there is still some way to go with both recruitment and career progression for the legal professions to be fully representative across all strands of diversity,” it said.

The guide stressed that different groups of would-be Costs Lawyers faced different barriers. “And some people face multiple barriers if they are a member of more than one disadvantaged group. So, it is important not to group all strands of diversity, or even all groups within a strand, together when trying to overcome the barriers.

“This means that it is best for employers and individual Costs Lawyers with responsibility for recruitment, progression and other development decisions to take more than one approach to improving diversity.”

It was important to value skills, not just results, in candidates as there were various reasons why people from less advantaged backgrounds did not perform as well academically as others, while the varied opportunities to gain experience, the availability of role models and recruitment biases could also weigh against them.

For example, students’ access to work experience could be affected by their social or family networks, while someone with caring responsibilities, or who needs to earn additional income, has less time to gain experience by volunteering.

“Costs Lawyers can consider getting involved in initiatives that give work experience to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, such as Pathways to Law. This can also help students improve their understanding of the work that Costs Lawyers do at an early stage…

“Legal organisations can work to reduce their recruitment bias by updating their candidate screening systems, which could improve social mobility and diversity across all groups; for example, by removing school attainment criteria, or by removing all university or school details from applications, so candidates are judged only on their performance and potential.”

The guide went on to emphasise the need for firms to develop inclusive cultures to improve progression through the ranks.

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Costs News
Published date
29 Apr 2020

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