The Legal Services Board (LSB) has issued revised guidance for regulators on how to improve diversity within their parts of the profession, despite objections from the Costs Lawyer Standards Board (CLSB).
The LSB first issued the statutory guidance in 2011 and, following a review and consultation, has published an updated version that it said was less prescriptive in its approach to diversity by shifting to outcomes-focused guidance, and allowing regulators to “develop their own approaches”.
The new guidance lists four outcomes:
– The regulator continues to build a clear and thorough understanding of the diversity profile of its regulated community (beginning at entry), how this changes over time and where greater diversity in the workforce needs to be encouraged;
– The regulator uses data, evidence and intelligence about the diversity of the workforce to inform development of, and evaluate the effectiveness of, its regulatory arrangements, operational processes and other activities;
– The regulator collaborates with others to encourage a diverse workforce, including sharing good practice, data collection and other relevant activities; and
– The regulator accounts to its stakeholders for its understanding, its achievements and plans to encourage a diverse workforce.
The LSB said the new flexibility would allow regulators “to work towards a common goal in different ways”.
It also rejected suggestions that a switch to a focus on outcomes and less prescription was the LSB taking a ‘step back’ from its commitments to diversity. “This revised guidance has the aim of delivering an improvement to the diversity of the workforce. This guidance is less input focused, but that is by design. The new guidance gives the regulators the responsibility to improve their work in this area, for which we will hold them to account.”
The LSB announced that next year it will carry out the first formal assessment of how the regulators have performed in improving diversity.
However, in its response to the consultation, the CLSB was unconvinced that what was proposed would provide flexibility.
CLSB chief executive Lynn Plumbley (pictured) wrote: “This document is wholly contradictory. It masquerades as guidance (“information and advice”) yet it is a defined set of expectations – expectations the LSB has stated it will take into account when implementing its proposed new formal assessment process.”
She argued that it contradicted the LSB’s stated intention of allowing approved regulators more freedom in determining their own targeted approaches to encouraging the diversity of their respective professions. “The outcomes section is actually the LSB setting out a more defined approach to be taken,” Ms Plumbley argued.
LSB chief executive Neil Buckley said: “Diversity is a key issue on which the LSB places great significance. We believe that a more diverse profession will support the delivery of legal services and encourage innovation in the sector.
“Our new guidance gives regulators greater flexibility and will help the sector find new ways of developing the diversity of the workforce and assist in collecting and using the valuable data gathered in the last five years.
“We will be reviewing the progress made by regulators in August 2017 and expect them to have started to use the greater flexibility offered by this guidance to make positive strides to address this issue.”
This post was posted in ACL e-Bulletin