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LETR research highlights 'ethnic under-recruitment'

25 April 2012

The legal profession performs well in attracting ethnic minority candidates to the earlier stages of education and training, but there appears to be “appreciable ethnic under-recruitment” when it comes to training contracts, the Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) research team has said.

In its second discussion paper, the LETR team said: “Since the numbers of training opportunities are determined by the market, we need to consider ways of making these more accessible to disadvantaged applicants, and possibly also ways of opening up alternative or additional avenues to qualification to reduce the bottleneck at this stage.”

The team said that while this did not prove that there was necessarily “direct discrimination” in recruitment processes, it did beg the question of whether recruitment criteria affected BME applicants unequally.

The latest publication from the LETR provides information on the current demographic composition of the legal sector by drawing on research data from its earlier literature review, and explores how the current education and training system may be limiting diversity and social mobility.

It states that equality, diversity and social mobility are “central and overarching” concerns of the review’s work, highlighting the regulatory objective in the Legal Services Act 2007 to “encourage an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession”.

According to the discussion paper, although there is a considerable amount of data available on gender and ethnicity, other protected characteristics, such as sexual orientation and disability, have been under-researched, which “significantly limits what we can reliably say at this stage”.

Commenting on the limitations of current data, Professor Julian Webb, who leads the research team, said: “Part of the problem is that data hasn’t been being collected pre-Equality Act.

“I think now you’ve got the public sector equality duty, more of that data’s going to be collected in the public sector and of course you’ve got the Legal Services Board also now requiring regulated entities to collect quite a broad range of equality and diversity data.”

You can respond to the questions posed in the paper by downloading a Word document from the LETR website. The deadline for responses is 2 July 2012.

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Regulators Education & Training