We have a set of 10 equality standards for the profession. They can be downloaded here, or from the menu to the right of this screen.
This follows extensive consultation including through our 'Profile' research, an open consultation, and specific interviews with solicitors, law firms, and in-house teams as well as a range of equality bodies.
It helped us achieve one of our Annual Plan objectives (3.1) for 2014/15 year "We will work to improve the employment conditions for solicitors as well as access to services for clients and the public by implementing the new equality standards framework"
The standards are supported by our three current guides to equality, which include cases studies of good practice from Scottish law firms. There is also guidance and information available for new parents and their managers
We are also delighted that the current Scottish Government tender exercise for legal services includes the framework in the Continuous Improvement section of the Statement of Requirement. We hope other bodies, especially in the public sector, will help in promoting the framework and encouraging equality and diversity in the legal services sector.
The decision to include this work within our plan was based on:
Detailed member research - for example, in one project which received responses from over 3,000 solicitors, 94% of those who responded agreed the Society should 'promote best practice', 80% agreed this should be in the form of 'guidelines' and 62% agreed these should contain minimum standards.
The lack of change on some issues recognised as important to the profession between the two significant "Profile of the Profession" surveys in 2006 and 2013. In 2006 evidence of various equality issues (e.g. entry to the profession, career progression, equal pay, discrimination and bullying) were identified through research. The further study in 2013 showed that these issues remain despite the Society providing extensive voluntary guidance and free training. There is a clear need for the Society and the profession to be more proactive in driving change
Public engagement and consultation - including work done through the Justice Sector Disability Group shows a number of significant issues in the ability of certain populations to access legal services.
The Equality and Diversity Committee, which comprises members of the profession and lay members, has considered various research papers and existing schemes and has discussed the approaches of other regulatory bodies. It has also taken advice from other organisations which have delivered similar standards or framework models.
The original consultation document sets out details of what was considered, and also includes a more detailed framework of stepping stones
In time, we plan to make these formal guidance, and then perhaps even regulatory rules – we’d welcome feedback both on the standards and whether you think they should become a more formal requirement.