SRA, diversity and the need for CODIE.

This article by Sophie Khan, Solicitor Director at Sophie Khan & Co. Solicitors and Higher Court Advocates, considers the position of a compliance officer for diversity, inclusion and equality.

It is only recently, that ‘diversity’ in the legal profession has reached such importance that it can no longer be ignored by the senior managers of law firms.  The career development of ethnic minority lawyers or lack of such a development has been brought into sharp focus by the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s report published on 31 October 2017 - Unlocking the benefits of diversity. 

The need for action to address the disparity in the employment and progression of ethnic minority lawyers is now a must, no longer a maybe. But how do we achieve this goal?

During my term as a Solicitor Member of the SRA’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee I saw there was no policy on challenging the status quo that existed in law firms towards enhancing the diversity makeup.  To address this issue, I proposed that the SRA develop a policy to have a Compliance Officer for Diversity, Inclusion and Equality, a CODIE, reporting on firms’ practices in diversity, inclusion and equality, similar to the way the Compliance Officer for Legal Practice, COLP and Compliance Officer for Financial Affairs, COFA report on issues on legal practice and financial administration.  

The CODIE would be responsible for monitoring the diversity, inclusion and equality policy and procedure at firms.  They would also be tasked with developing good practice and initiatives in creating a fairer, more equal and more diverse workforce, and have the same reporting mechanism as the COLP and COFA.

The proposal was not taken up at the time, but it seems that the SRA must now review its policy in light of its own research report. The SRA can use its regulatory powers to ‘drive’ law firms to a position where the career development and progression of ethnic minority lawyers becomes part of the fabric and future of their firm.  The creation of a fairer, more equal and more diverse legal profession can become a reality for the first time, and the answer is a CODIE.

Sophie will be speaking more about this and other related topics at Graduate Recruitment for Law Firms 2018 event on 5 June 2018.