Why do Black, Asian and minority ethnic background solicitors receive larger proportion of complaints than their white colleagues

Lancaster University Management School is working with the Universities of Cardiff and York to conduct a new study to examine why there is overrepresentation of those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds in reports made to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has commissioned the Universities of Lancaster, York and to lead a new independent review into why it receives more reports about Black, Asian and minority ethnic solicitors than their white colleagues. The project will also review the regulator’s decision making at the assessment stage, to understand why a greater proportion of cases involving Black, Asian and minority ethnic solicitors are taken forward for investigation.

The SRA’s latest data for 2020/21 shows that Black, Asian and minority ethnic solicitors as a whole, make up 18% of the practising population, 25% of individuals reported to the SRA and 33% of those whose cases were taken forward for investigation.

A previous review in 2014 looking at the SRA’s internal processes found no evidence of discrimination but did make a number of recommendations. The SRA reported on its progress in implementing the recommendations when it resumed publication of its diversity monitoring data in 2020.

Unlike previous reviews, this project will focus on establishing the reasons why the SRA receives such a disproportionate number of complaints against Black, Asian and minority ethnic solicitors.

It will look to establish whether the disproportionate reporting of Black, Asian and minority ethnic solicitors is related to specific types of reports, as well as understanding what other factors arising from the structure of the legal sector and wider society are driving this difference.

“The SRA take this problem very seriously,” says Lancaster University Management School’s Professor James Faulconbridge, the Lancaster University project lead. “Our research will use a unique range of data to establish whether the overrepresentation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic solicitors in the cases that go forward for investigation is specific to any particular type of complaint or other structural factor.”

Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, adds: “We are committed to understanding what is happening to drive the longstanding overrepresentation of Black, Asian and minority ethic solicitors in our enforcement work. We have made significant changes to our enforcement processes and reformed our regulation over the last few years, but the pattern remains the same – as it is for so many regulators – and it is unclear why that is the case. Since 2007 we have held three independent reviews into our processes to make sure they are fair and free from bias, and none found any evidence of discrimination.

“There could be many factors affecting the troubling picture we are seeing, including wider societal issues or structural features in the legal sector, for example the different diversity profile of small firms compared to large firms. Having a better understanding of the causes will help us and others address these issues.”

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.