23 September 2019

Spotlight on diversity, culture and practices

Our Risk Outlook was published in April 2016. This sets out our three priority areas of risk in the legal services market and provides some useful context to accompany them. In the last of a series of three features, we summarise the priority area of diversity, culture and practices. More detailed analysis and evidence is provided in the main publication, which can be found on our website.

We all communicate in slightly different ways: languages, dialects, non-verbal communication, (such as the way we make eye contact and the meaning behind it), how we greet people may also differ according to the background we come from. 

Even in these examples, there are lots of variants. For example, some cultural groups may maintain very strong eye contact with someone in a position of authority to show attention or avoid eye contact to show respect.

One of the key areas in our diversity, culture and practices theme, found in our Risk Outlook, is cross-cultural communication. This was the subject of a symposium we hosted in January.

The examples above show how differences in our backgrounds can influence how we communicate. Cross-cultural communication is important in engaging with those you work alongside but also who you deliver legal services to.

In the theme in our Risk Outlook, we also explore related issues. We discuss anti-discriminatory practices: how the right policies, procedures and actions can prevent unlawful discrimination. We highlight the impact of bullying and harassment and the working culture of the Bar and its impact on wellbeing. We reflect on some of the social and economic barriers to joining the Bar, including cost of training, educational background and the lack of diversity at the Bar and in the judiciary.

The Outlook recognises that tackling these issues is complex and requires a variety of actions over time to resolve. Where we can have influence, we need to work with a diverse range of stakeholders from the profession and wider public.

Improving Cross-cultural communication and implementing robust equality action plans can improve business performance and minimise time wastage by improving the services provided to clients and avoiding (perhaps unintended) discrimination. Training in unconscious bias can also be beneficial to avoid recruiting and favouring people 'in your own image'.

Central to the matter: valuing individual and group differences, promoting equality of opportunity and eliminating discrimination, are hallmarks of a strong, diverse and effective Bar. These principles are enshrined in the regulatory objectives and drive priorities set out in our Strategic Plan. We recognise there is a wealth of best practice within the profession and real areas of improvement - the Outlook sets out opportunities for us all to make a positive difference in improving diversity and increasing access to justice

For more information, our Risk Outlook can be found on our website.