THE LEGAL profession is tackling the “unconscious bias” that stops people from humble backgrounds reaching the top, according to the chief executive of the Law Society.
Des Hudson, who was born in Halifax, also said that law firms needed to do more to ensure women were promoted to senior positions.
Earlier this year, a Yorkshire Post investigation revealed that just one fifth of partners in Yorkshire’s top professional services firms are female.
Speaking during a trip to Leeds, Mr Hudson said: “In terms of people who are going to join the profession this year, about 60 per cent will be female. If I look at the number of females who are partners in the major firms, it’s around about 35 per cent, so we have more progress to make. It’s about trying to inculcate within firms the benefits of having women as part of the management team. It’s about trying to get people to look at new ways of working. It’s also about helping clients to think about what they need from their lawyer. Do they actually need that piece of work done overnight, so it’s on their desk the following morning?
“Would it be fine if it arrived at lunchtime? That sort of change would enable, I think, more balanced work life models to operate within law firms. What the Law Society is doing is sharing best practice.”
Mr Hudson said he believed social mobility patterns had changed for the worst since he was at school in Huddersfield in the 1970s.
He said: “We’re conscious that we need to reflect the society which we serve. We’re very conscious of the fact that like the rest of society, there are too many people from Eton running the legal profession. We’re conscious of it, and trying to do something about it.
“Are we as a profession making the most sensible decisions about how we recruit our future lawyers?
“Some of our firms now will anonymise the details of the university or the school that an applicant went to. Some of our firms are compensating for the fact that, if I was at a challenged state school in the middle of South Yorkshire, then the fact that I got two As and a B is far better than somebody who had a more privileged background getting three As.
“What we’re also saying is, ‘think about unconscious bias’.”