The Silver Spoon in the Legal Profession
The Silver Spoon in the Legal Profession
The legal profession epitomises our society – or so it should - but does it?
Playground for the privileged
Great strides have recently been made to diversify the profession with increased representation of females and ethnic minority groups. This change is yet to be seen in the top echelons and the profession still very much remains the playground for the privileged.
Around 21% of solicitors and 34% of barristers attended fee-paying schools and more than 50% have parents with a degree-level qualification. This compares to only 7% of the population attending fee paying schools and on average 19% of the population with parents with degree level qualifications.
The statistics show a clear demarcation that significant barriers exist for those from less privileged backgrounds to enter the profession. The barriers consist of the high cost of study, traditional narrow routes into the profession, inertia, and entrenched attitudes on what typifies a legal professional.
Trust and representation
Our legal profession and justice system sets the tone at the highest level on fairness and equal representation for all those in our society. The composition of our legal profession should reflect the same and yet the lack of social mobility is stark and the profession is poorer for it.
The profession can be enriched with a wealth of untapped talent and ambition from different backgrounds bringing diverse perspectives into the sector. This would help to strengthen trust between citizens and the justice system knowing that the legal profession is truly representative of all regardless of gender, ethnicity. or socio-economic background.
A report published by the Legal Services Board last year references that “the pace of progress needs to rapidly accelerate to ensure that the legal profession at all levels reflects the diversity of the communities it serves”. There was, it found, “deep-seated inertia” hindering change.
Breakdown the barriers
It is clear greater impetus is needed to remove the silver spoon by broadening the talent pool through alternative low-cost routes into the profession, by challenging outdated embedded perceptions in the sector and, by creating effective pathways to allow legal professionals to move vertically and horizontally across the legal profession regardless of which mode of study they qualified with.
The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) is a pioneer in providing vocational low-cost routes into law, creating accessibility into the sector for ambitious, talented individuals. The membership reflects this with 74% female, 14% from ethnic minority groups and 87% having attended a state funded school. Only 2% have a parent who is a lawyer. The launch of the new CILEx Professional Qualification (CPQ) is focused on training ‘today’s lawyers’ with a blend and depth of legal, commercial, technical and relational skill set that our judicial system, corporate law firms and our society deeply needs. The focus is on relevance and progression over tradition and establishment. With the transformational push on creating a talent pool of lawyers that truly represent the needs of society today the envelope is indeed being pushed to challenge deep rooted perceptions and entrenched attitudes.
Ensuring professions and sectors are reflective of society is a responsibility we all have, one which we should look to discharge by continuously challenging our own subconscious bias and perceptions when recruiting and developing talent.
To cultivate change at pace, it is true - the government, corporate sectors and professional institutions are instrumental in setting the tone and responding to the rallying call – to be ‘bold, proactive and decisive’. It is only through such unity of action that we collectively will be able to break down barriers and cultivate social mobility, diversity and inclusion to ensure our core professions and sectors are representative of society today and tomorrow.
Jagjit Dosanjh-Elton is a seasoned finance professional with an innate passion of driving social mobility and diversity in all aspects of our business and professional worlds.
Having worked as a senior executive across several sectors including media, energy and property Jagjit is leveraging her experience to create social impact.
Jagjit sits on the board of several organisations including the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx), the Social Investment Business, TB Alert (Trustee), Greenwich University (co-opted committee member) and Kings Hill School (Governor). The common denominator that unites these organisations is their unparalleled commitment to create opportunity and an inclusive society.
Jagjit’s Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jagjitdosanjh-elton/