Encouraging and promoting a diverse legal services sector

Our State of Legal Service 2020 report reflects on ten years of independent regulation, and it concludes that progress in improving diversity and inclusion in the legal services sector has been slow. In particular, the pace of progress in closing attainment gaps at senior levels of the profession has been too slow.

Everyone across the sector needs to work together to ensure that the profession reflects the diversity of the communities it serves, at all levels. Based on the State of the Legal Services 2020 report, we expect the regulators to evaluate their diversity initiatives, assess their effectiveness and share learning points

As part of our business plan consultation 2021/22, we have set out our proposals for diversity and inclusion. For 2021 we plan to:

  • Review our statutory guidance and build diversity and inclusion into our regulatory performance framework.
  • Convene and co-produce work on matters including:
    1. approaches to design and evaluation of interventions
    2. collation and use of data
    3. the lived experience of legal professionals.

An LSB report in 2016 found that since 2011 the extent to which the regulators have used the information collected differed greatly, varying from merely applying the guidance and collecting data in its simplest form to more comprehensive implementation of policies and processes based on the data collected. A review of the 2011 guidance found it to be too prescriptive, and limited the regulators in their work to develop new and targeted initiatives based on the information gathered.

In February 2017, we issued guidance to the regulators giving them more flexibility in how they encourage diversity in the workforce. This updates the earlier guidance (issued in July 2011) that introduced new transparency duties at firm and chambers level to monitor and publish diversity statistics. The 2011 diversity guidance focused narrowly on data collection. This was to create the evidence base required to carry out assessments on where the issues were and measure the impact of initiatives to address these over time.

The new LSB guidance has a renewed focus on outcomes and encourages regulators to take their work beyond data collection. There are four diversity outcomes which require the regulators to:

  • continue to gather data to ensure a clear understanding of the diversity profile of their regulated communities;
  • use of data to inform development of its regulatory activities;
  • collaborate with others to encourage a diverse workforce; and
  • account to their stakeholders for its achievement and plans to encourage a diverse workforce.

In August 2017, we sought an update from the regulators on the work being undertaken and planned, at that point: Update on legal services regulators progress against revised diversity outcomes (2017). We commenced a formal assessment of the regulators’ progress against the four outcomes in August 2018. In January 2019, we published a summary report which set out the findings of our formal assessment of each of the regulators’ progress: Diversity: Summary report on the legal services regulators’ progress against diversity outcomes (January 2019).The report also sets out our expectations for each of the regulators in 2019, and we will be closely monitoring future developments and the impact of their regulatory activities. As a demonstration of the LSB’s own commitment to encouraging a diverse workforce in the sector, we have also published our self-assessment against the four outcomes in the report.

In July 2020 we published our summary report against the four outcomes in their current format which included what good regulatory performance looks like on equality matters within the current framework.


Further information

Diversity data on each of the legal professions can be found on the relevant pages of the regulatory bodies websites.

LSB reports on regulators’ progress against 2011 guidance:

  • Diversity and the legal services regulators May 2016
  • Diversity data collection and transparency March 2015
  • Diversity data collection and transparency September 2013

Further reports are available on LSB’s research pages

For more information contact the Regulatory Policy Manager Craig Wakeford