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BME lawyers under represented at senior level in legal profession

BME lawyers under represented at senior level in legal profession

Categories: Latest News

Friday November 06 2015

Online blog website, Legal Cheek reveals figures from its analysis of BME representation in law firms in the capital showing that ethnic minorities are still under represented in city law firms at senior level, with only a small number of international law firms reflecting the ethnic diversity of the general UK population.

According to Legal Cheek’s analysis of figures presented by law firms on their BME intake and the number of BME lawyers represented at Associate and Partner level, city law firms continue to be dominated by white lawyers despite a more ethnically diverse intake at associate level. Furthermore, while annual figures demonstrate a comparatively high intake of ethnic minority associates, this pattern is not reflected in law firms at a senior level.

Despite 44% of London’s population being from an ethnic minority background, data disclosing information about associate level workforces at 43 law firms in the city disclosed to Legal Cheek shows that the number of associates from a Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) background hired by these firms did not reflect the number of individuals from a BME background in the capital. Only 15 out of the 43 firms have reached or came close to reaching the number of BME people as a proportion of the general population (14%), employing between 10% and 14% BME associates.

Legal Cheek found that 13 out of the 43 firms (30%) surpassed the of 14% mark with this trend reflected at more senior levels in only a few law firms.

Legal Cheek found that in 35 out of 42 of law firms (83%), the percentage of partnership positions filled by non-white lawyers did not even reach 10%. In 4 out of 42 firms (10%) the intake of BME partners was higher than the national average, but a similar number, 3 out of 42 (7%), did not have a single partner from an ethnic minority background.

The top 5 legal firms with the most number of BME associates are: Linklaters (28%), Cleary Gottlieb (25%), White and Case (23%), Latham and Watkins (21%) and Mayer Brown (21%).

The top 5 legal firms with the most number of BME partners are: Berwin, Leighton Paisner (16%), Shearman & Sterling (16%), Cleary Gottlieb (14%), Clyde & Co (14%) and Mayer Brown (13%)

BME inequalities in employment was recently highlighted in the Equalities and Human Rights Commission report, Is Britain Fairer? The report noted the inequalities faced by BME communities in the labour market, and by Muslims in particular noting, “Muslims have experienced the highest unemployment rates (particularly Muslim men in England), and also the lowest employment rates (especially in Scotland and Wales); The employment rate for Pakistani/Bangladeshi people remained the lowest (48.2% in 2013), despite a significant improvement between 2008 and 2013.

The highest  unemployment rate was among Pakistanis/Bangladeshis (17.3%) in 2013; and Pakistani/Bangladeshi women were less than half as likely to be employed compared with average employment rates for other women.

While Theresa May recently condemned police forces in England and Wales for poor recruitment of black and ethnic minority officers, BME representation across all professions, in public and private-sector industries, is extremely low. Figures within the teaching profession also provides a similar scenario, with only 7.2% of all primary and secondary teachers being from a BME background. That number decreases further in senior teaching positions with only 2.9% of head teachers in state-funded schools being from a BME background.

Similar figures are have also been reported within the armed forces, with 7.1% of all servicemen and women identifying themselves as non-white, but at officer rank the figure decreases to 2.4%. The exception however is within the NHS, where ethnic minorities represented 41% of all hospital and community doctors and 20% of nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff, although only 7% of senior nurses, including matrons, comprised of individuals from a BME background.

In a bid to tackle discrimination in the employment process, David Cameron, last week outlined his plan to end “unconscious bias” during at employment application stage by introducing a “name blind recruitment” system from 2017 that will remove the names of candidates from application forms for jobs within the civil service, the BBC, the NHS and local government. An identical scheme will be introduced by UCAS amid concerns that BME students are losing out to their white contemporaries when they apply for places at university. Name blind applications was first suggested in the 2010 Liberal Democrats’ general election manifesto and appeared again in its 2015 manifesto as part of a series of policies designed to tackle race discrimination.


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