Friday 01 June 2012 by Jonathan Rayner

Law firms have until the end of September to provide diversity data about every member of staff, including their ethnicity, religious beliefs, socio-economic background and sexual orientation.

The timeline emerged last week when the Legal Services Board (LSB) published its qualified approval of the Solicitors Regulation Authority's (SRA) action plan to improve data collection and transparency around diversity and social mobility in the profession.

The LSB approved a planned 'standalone exercise' in the third quarter of 2012 through which firms are to collect and submit data to the SRA for publication in the first quarter of 2013. It also approved the plan to require firms to publish the data themselves, starting 2013.

To collect the data, the LSB approved the SRA plan to give firms a 'model questionnaire' through which every member of staff - lawyers and non-lawyers - can self-classify against the characteristics of age, gender, disability, ethnic group, religion or belief, sexual orientation, socio-economic background and caring responsibilities.

However, the LSB expressed 'some concern' that the SRA's plan had missed the March 2012 deadline for publishing diversity data. However, it accepted the SRA's argument that it would have been 'disproportionate' to expect otherwise given the number of solicitors that it regulated and the 'level of change already underway' that the profession was undergoing.

The LSB published a consultation document Increasing diversity and social mobility in the legal workforce: transparency and evidence on 15 December 2010. The SRA action plan was devised to comply with the guidance, issued by the SRA in July 2011, arising from the consultation findings.

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