14 June, 2022
The number of women and people of colour in senior roles within conveyancing is still unsatisfactory. Despite the many initiatives aimed at lowering barriers to entry and ensuring fair career progression across the entire legal profession, change is very slow – particularly for those who are vulnerable or have protected characteristics.
The CLC has now launched a public consultation on changes to its Equality Code in a bid to ensure regulated practices and individuals are meeting expectations.
There are two main changes proposed which relate to the way the CLC collects data on diversity and complaints of discrimination, victimisation or harassment and are set out in the consultation document.
It is important that the legal profession reflects – to the greatest extent possible – the diversity of the population it serves. Although the CLC’s non-graduate profession is more closely reflective of society than some other branches of legal sector, the fact that women and people of colour do not progress to senior positions in the proportions they should indicates that more action is needed to make effective and sustainable changes.
These proposals are intended to deliver, and maintain, positive improvements by giving the CLC more levers to effect change and we are keen to hear what people think.
Since the Equality Code was introduced, following the passing of the Equality Act in 2010, the CLC has gathered three sets of diversity data from its regulated community. While the response from individuals was good, the preferred method of collecting data from practices was less successful, prompting concerns that some firms may not be seeking the information from their employees.
The consultation proposes that a new requirement is written into its Equality Code, compelling regulated practices to “cooperate with the CLC in the collection and analysis of data about their workforce and owners as may be required by the CLC from time to time.”
In order to help monitor and drive change, the CLC further proposes that, when required, practices “report any instances of complaints of discrimination, victimisation or harassment whether as an employer or service provider” and keeps records to enable them to do so.
A joint statement issued recently by the Legal Services Board along with eight legal regulators, including the CLC, underlined their commitment to tackling counter-inclusive misconduct.
“We know regulation alone is not the answer, but as legal service regulators we have considerable influence over how legal professionals behave,” it said.
“We oversee the way lawyers are trained and educated. We set standards of conduct and expectations of professional behaviour. And we have powers to act where conduct falls below those expectations and through our disciplinary processes.”
Sheila Kumar, Chief Executive of the CLC added: “It is appropriate for the CLC as a regulator to examine where regulated bodies and individuals are or may be failing to comply with our regulatory arrangements and expectations.
“To help achieve this, the CLC needs to be able to collect data on all complaints related to discrimination, victimisation and harassment made by employees of a practice, its clients or members of the public.
“Where this data provides evidence of non-compliance with the code (or more broadly), the CLC will then be able to take proportionate action.”
Anyone working in the conveyancing industry or with insight into the challenges of delivering a diverse workforce and inclusive client services is invited to take part in the consultation, full details of which are available here. Responses can be sent up until the closing date of 30h August either via email firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to: The Council for Licensed Conveyancers, WeWork, 131 Finsbury Pavement, London, EC2A 1NT.
All responses will be published but can be anonymous if requested.
The consultation includes additional draft guidance that will be finalised following the consultation and that will assist firms in meeting their obligations under the Equality Code. It is included at Annex 4 of the consultation document.