In January 2021, we launched the Racial Inclusion Group with the aim of better understanding the lived and professional experiences of our Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) members and future members. The group achieved this through various research methods, and its findings and recommendations were published in January 2022.
Led by convener and solicitor Tatora Mukushi, the Racial Inclusion Group’s work included the following activities:
- reviewing the main Scottish data sources on inclusion in the profession, including the Profiles of the Profession and diversity data collected at PC renewal, and undertaking a comprehensive literature review of other sources that provided insight into how to improve racial inclusion in the profession.
- conducting research with BAME law students, trainees and solicitors through an online survey and one-to-one interviews.
- speaking to other stakeholders in the justice sector, such as law firms, in-house teams and universities, on best practice, challenges and how to overcome these.
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- The trend of increased diversity entering the profession continues and is positive, but this is not reflected across all minority ethnic groups and an increased pace is required. Access to minority role models, mentoring networks and funding opportunities are key issues that need addressed in order to achieve more diversity throughout the profession.
- The lack of visible ethnic minority role models within the legal sector not only deters new ethnic minority entrants to the profession, but places an undue pressure and burden on existing ethnic minority members to act as mentors and representatives in addition to their legal careers.
- Employers want diverse talent, but struggle to attract it, with a gap between the number of ethnic minority law students and those applying successfully to the largest employers of trainees in Scotland, which collectively train a significant percentage of trainee solicitors. Initiatives, such as using contextualised recruitment and blind recruitment, have been shown to have a positive effect.
- A survey of members’ personal experiences was completed by around 25% of practising ethnic minority members. It showed that more than 60% of all respondents have experienced bias, racism or discrimination at some point on their route to qualification or during their careers. Of those that have experienced some form of bias, more than three-quarters said it was within the last two years, from overt acts, such as something someone said or did, to omissions, such as inconsiderate practices.
- Building a culture within the profession where everyone can thrive requires action from members, employers and stakeholders. The intersection between ethnicity bias and other biases (such as gender, sexual orientation, age etc) cannot be ignored. Failing at inclusion results in ethnic minority lawyers being placed under a pressure their white counterparts do not face. Employers that take steps towards inclusion in how they treat their staff, ensuring fairness in recruitment, pay, progression, and work allocation, celebrating a wide range of cultural events, and openly acknowledging contemporary racism and confronting it, will see clear beneficial outcomes.
- Discussions around ethnicity targets should be encouraged to ensure that proportionate action is being taken to meet a legitimate aim and that it does not lead to personal or professional victimisation. Increasingly, large businesses are influencing the issue by setting targets for legal service providers.
The report includes 60 recommendations to help address the challenges reported and further inclusion within the Scottish legal profession.
The Law Society’s response to the Racial Inclusion Group's report includes 24 action points to take forward to help address the challenges of inclusion. These cover six broad themes:
- Inspiring the next generation of ethnic minority solicitors.
- Using our data, and the insight of our members, to promote change across the profession and sector.
- Continuing to listen to our ethnic minority members and future members.
- Leading the profession to adopt inclusive recruitment and employment practices.
- Collaborating with justice sector partners to improve equality in the profession.
- Ensuring that we are and continue to be an inclusive professional body.