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  • Do Prizes Have Any Point? The Potential for Diversity Initiatives to Change the Ethnic Profile of the Solicitors’ Profession

    Avis Whyte

    Chapter from the book: Whyte, A et al. 2024. The Long Walk to Equality: Perspectives on Racial Inequality, Injustice and the Law.


    By 2015, ‘BAME’ solicitors with practising certificates marginally exceeded their proportion of the working age population. This achievement was culmination of three decades of change, during which the legal profession has become more representative of the general population.  Yet despite this shift, the profession remains stratified, with large city law firms in particular, channelling expensive legal work to privileged, white males. This chapter considers what role scholarships, awards, diversity programmes and other initiatives play in increasing ethnic diversity in the legal field and considers the potential of such initiatives to impact on law firm structure.  It focuses on black males as a particularly underrepresented group. It uses Freshfields' Stephen Lawrence Scholarship (a diversity initiative), hailed as the most innovative in the city, as a case study.  The chapter argues that such schemes have an important part to play in changing the culture of large city law firms and some potential to effect sustained change to the “old, white male” face of the profession. However, it suggests that without more meaningful accountability and a more concerted effort by the regulators, the pace of change to the profession’s profile, will remain slow.

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    Whyte, A. 2024. Do Prizes Have Any Point? The Potential for Diversity Initiatives to Change the Ethnic Profile of the Solicitors’ Profession. In: Whyte, A et al (eds.), The Long Walk to Equality. London: University of Westminster Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16997/book63.e

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    Published on Feb. 20, 2024