A study published by Dr. Steven Vaughan of Birmingham University Law School has criticised barristers’ chambers and the Bar Standards Board (BSB) in relation to the publishing and availability of diversity data at the bar.
As part of his study, entitled “’Prefer not to say’: diversity and diversity reporting at the bar of England and Wales”, Dr. Vaughan conducted a random survey of 160 chambers and received some form of diversity data from 91 of them. The study revealed that there had been “widespread non-compliance by chambers” when it came to the Legal Services Board’s (LSB) rules on equality and diversity (as incorporated in the BSB Code of Conduct). Notably, chambers were found to be less likely to disclose data in relation to members’ socio-economic background, sexual orientation, caring responsibilities and disability status.
Rule C110 of the BSB Code of Conduct requires chambers to have a written statement of policy on equality and diversity as well as a written plan implementing that policy. Chambers must also monitor the number and percentages of its workforce from different groups by collecting and analysing data relating to race, disability and gender. Equality and diversity policies must be subject to a “regular review”, with the Code’s guidance suggesting that a “regular review” would be annual in respect of pupils and every three years for tenants.
Dr Vaughan’s study also criticised the BSB for not formally requiring chambers to pass on diversity data and for publishing the data that it did have in a manner that was “misleading and arguably demonstrate[d] a lack of transparency on the part of the regulatory body”. The study suggested that the BSB should ensure that equality and diversity requirements were being met by compelling chambers to pass on their data – as the Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority (SRA) do with solicitors’ firms – and asking chambers specifically to comment on their data.
4KBW is committed to providing equal opportunities to its employees, members and clients. Chambers’ written equality and diversity programme, as well as diversity data for chambers’ employees, pupils and tenants, can be found here: http://www.4kbw.net/equality-diversity-programme/.