Equality and diversity

Background

Birchall Blackburn Law recognises the challenges faced by people from minority groups or disadvantaged backgrounds looking for opportunities to enter the legal profession.

The firm has never selected staff based on factors such as age, gender or ethnic origin.  We believe that in order to offer the best service, we need the best people.  That is the only philosophy that drives our recruitment.

We acknowledge that we could do more, and we are always looking to develop strategies that actively encourage people into the firm who might not get a chance through more traditional routes.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority require all solicitors to publish data about the diversity of their workforce.  We are keen to make that information available, because it helps us to focus on the challenges we face.  References within this report to SRA data are taken from the SRA’s publication of results from their 2019 data collection.

Survey Participation

All staff are invited to take part in a regular diversity survey.  Completion of the survey is not compulsory, but we are pleased that a significant number of our staff from across all roles and areas of work take part.

 In 2021, responses were received from staff in the following groups in the percentages shown.

  Survey Participation* Actual Composition
Qualified lawyers and Managers 32.5% 29.6%
Other legal services roles 47.0% 49.3%
Corporate services 10.8% 21.1%

* 9.6% of participants did not specify their role within the organisation.

The response to the survey broadly matched the composition of the firm, ensuring that no groups are disproportionately represented in the survey data.

Equality

Participants were asked to state to which groups (in a variety of categories: age, gender, etc) they considered they belonged.  The results are set out below as a percentage of those who participated.

Gender  
Female 78.1%
Male 20.7%
Other 1.2%

This compares favourably with the legal profession as a whole – data collected by the SRA showing, for example, that only 34% of senior legal roles were held by women.

Ethnicity  
White* 92.6%
BAME* 7.4%

*To avoid identifying individual members of staff, responses have been consolidated into two categories for publication purposes.  The survey covered this issue in greater depth.

Due to the sample size, it is difficult to draw conclusions, but we note that BAME representation is higher amongst our junior solicitors and non-qualified lawyers, who represent the future of our business and the legal profession.  88% of respondents in those groups identified as white, which is in line with the UK working population as a whole (87.2%).

Disability*  
Yes 6.2%
No 93.8%

*  Participants were asked if they considered that they had a disability as defined by the Equality Act 2010.

Impact of disability & health issues*  
Yes 4.0%
No 96.0%

*  Participants were asked if their day-to-day activities were limited because of a health problem or disability.

Data collected by the SRA shows that less than 4% of all those employed in the legal profession reported that they had a disability.  This may indicate underlying barriers to the profession.  Whilst Birchall Blackburn Law performs better, we recognise the potential for improvement to enable greater access to a career in law.

Age  
16 to 24 years 8.5%
25 to 34 years 31.7%
35 to 44 years 23.2%
45 to 54 years 20.7%
55 to 64 years 12.2%
65 years and older 3.7%

The age profile of our staff very closely correlates with the data collected by the SRA for the profession as a whole.

Social mobility

Employment and progression within Birchall Blackburn Law is based entirely on merit.  Academic results are important, but we recognise the barriers that can prevent talented individuals from diverse backgrounds demonstrating their academic potential.  We have a successful record of bringing individuals into the legal profession through non-traditional routes and helping them to develop rewarding careers and become senior lawyers and managers within the business.

Education*  
UK state school 91.0%
Independent school 9.0%

*Participants were asked about the type of school they attended between the ages of 11 and 16.  Responses have been consolidated for publication purposes.  The survey covered this issue in greater depth.

Parental qualifications*  
At least one parent attended university 83.3%
Parents did not attend university 16.7%%

* Participants were asked whether either of their parents had attended university. 

Parental profession*  
Professional 20.5%
Management & administration 28.2%
Clerical & intermediate 5.1%
Technical & craft 19.2%
Manual & service 16.7%
Small business owner 9.0%
Other 1.3%

*  Participants were asked about the work undertaken by their family’s main income earner.  The responses are summarised, but the question was asked in greater detail with examples given for each category.

These results are consistent with our ethos of employing and retaining staff based on ability and performance, regardless of background.  Our results contrast positively against data collected by the SRA, which shows a significant gap between the legal profession as a whole and the general UK population on issues such as attendance at fee-paying schools.

Caring responsibilities

Carer*  
Yes 5.1%
No 95.0%

*  Participants were asked if they provided voluntary care to a person with long term ill health caused by disability or age.

Parent*  
Yes 35%
No 65%

*  Participants were asked if they were a primary carer for a child under the age of 18.

The legal profession is traditionally viewed as a high-pressure environment that poses a challenge to anyone wishing to maintain both a career and family life.  An overall figure of 35% having caring responsibilities for children is consistent with the legal profession as a whole (28%).  However, at Birchall Blackburn Law, we value, encourage and support a healthy work-life balance, and we recognise that this is important to avoid indirectly limiting the diversity of our staff.  This culture is particularly evident amongst our more senior qualified lawyers and mangers.

69.2% of Birchall Blackburn Law’s qualified lawyers and managers are primary carers for children, compared with only 34% of partners and solicitors across the legal profession.  The smaller proportion of people with primary caring responsibilities for children among other staff (and, therefore, the 35% overall figure) is likely to reflect the younger age profile of staff in those groups.

Conclusion

We are conscious that it is difficult to draw firm conclusions from this survey of our staff, but the data is in line with our expectations and, overall, we are reassured by the findings.  However, our efforts to improve diversity do not end with a survey and we will draw on this information to consider what more we can do to promote inclusivity and greater access to opportunities within the firm.