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Diversity and Equality Research

Diversity and Equality Study of the Northern Ireland Solicitor Profession 2022

The Society, under the leadership of the Human Rights and Equality Group, commissioned its first ever Diversity and Equality Survey at the end of 2021. This survey was conducted by Cognisense on behalf of the Society and all results were anonymous.

The survey sought information on a variety of issues and results revealed that whilst progress has been made in some areas, there is much work remaining to be done.

The outcomes of the survey were analysed, and the findings were presented to and considered by the Society’s Council. Whilst it is acknowledged that all issues of concern identified within survey responses require attention, two key areas were identified as initial priorities. These two priorities are:

1.    Improving the experience of women in the solicitor profession.

2.    Improving access to the profession for minorities.

Following the identification of the above priority areas, two working groups were formed to consider the issues in depth and identify actions to address them. The groups include members of the Society’s Council, the Human Rights and Equality Group, the Future of the Profession and Education Committees, Society staff and external bodies. The groups took advice from relevant experts including the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, Diversity Mark and the NI Judicial Appointments Commission.

The Society published its ‘Diversity and Equality Study of the Northern Ireland Solicitor Profession’ at its Centenary Conference in September 2022. The report contains the findings of the Diversity and Equality survey, and it concludes with an Action Plan which targets the core issues of gender equality and increasing access to the profession.

A copy of the study can be found here.

Diversity and Equality Action Plan

The Diversity and Equality Action plan (page 20) contains 11 priority areas of focus across four key themes:

·         Outreach/engagement

·         Overcoming Financial Barriers

·         Equality and Diversity Resources

·         External Equality Accreditation

The implementation of the plan will be overseen by the Society’s Future of the Profession Committee and progress will be reviewed regularly. Progress on the delivery of actions will be reported to members and the plan will developed and adapted as required.

The Society hopes that the delivery of the actions within the Action Plan will contribute towards fulfilling the first steps towards a more diverse and equal solicitor profession in Northern Ireland, which it is committed to achieving.

Ongoing/Future Research Projects

One of the priority areas of focus identified within the Diversity and Equality Action Plan was:

“We will carry out a further in-depth qualitative research project with female leavers from private legal practice to gain a better understanding of why they have left private practice and to ascertain what might have encouraged them to stay or re-enter in future”.

This research project will begin in Autumn 2022 and will be completed within a 12-month time-frame. Further details will be published soon.

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