Diversity stats show ethnic minorities made up 35% of all 2011 SDT referrals
More than a third of all solicitors referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) in 2011 were black and minority ethnic (BME) individuals, according to the Solicitors Regulation Authority's (SRA's) annual equality and diversity report.
Of the 390 individuals referred to the SDT during 2011, 35% were BME individuals, a notable increase on last year’s equivalent figure of 31% from a smaller group of 311 referrals.
The SRA progress report, which aims to demonstrate what the regulator has done to ensure it is acting fairly and proportionately, also shows that 2011 saw a reduction in the proportion of interventions involving BME solicitors.
Interventions, which entail the immediate closure of a firm and the subsequent seizure of its documents and assets, are carried out by the regulator in the public interest. During 2011 30% of all interventions involved BME solicitors, down from from 38% in 2010.
The report explains that the vast majority of the firms intervened into during 2011 were one or two-partner outfits, which the SRA states may account for the disproportionality of BME solicitors, who are known to be overrepresented in firms of this size.
The report states that BME individuals – covering black, Asian, Chinese and other ethnic origins – make up a total of 14% of the overall 2011 solicitor population.
The report also breaks down the solicitor population by gender, with 46% of the 129,780 individuals with practicing certificate recorded as female and the remaining 54% as male.
Just over one fifth of interventions recorded throughout 2011 involved women (22%), while an even smaller proportion of women were subsequently referred to the SDT (19%).
Commenting on the figures, SRA director for inclusion Mehrunnisa Lalani said: "There has been significant progress made in delivering against our priorities, but we are not complacent and we know we need to do more to address certain issues.”
She added: "Our work in equality and diversity cannot be about ticking a box, it must be about continuous review and improvement. Key to this is our close engagement with diversity practitioner groups and consumers."
By Friederike Heine.