Legal Profession Culturally Diverse

More Effort Required To Make The Legal Profession Culturally Diverse

The Law Society of NSW has launched a new guide outlining steps that law firms and legal workplaces can take to become more culturally diverse and inclusive.

President of the Law Society of NSW, Juliana Warner, says that while law firms and legal practices have worked to boost cultural diversity in recent years, more work is required to ensure cultural diversity in the legal workplace.

According to the most recent Law Society data, the number of practising NSW solicitors who were born overseas has increased from 22.5% in 2001 to 28% in 2020. This is lower than the general NSW population with the 2016
Australian census showing that 35% of all people living in NSW were born overseas.

Of those NSW solicitors who were born overseas, in 2020, 44% were born in Asia, 15% were born in the UK/Ireland, 11% in Oceania and 10% in Europe.
However, the proportion of practising solicitors born in Asia has increased by nearly 10% over the past decade (from 35% in 2011 to 44% in 2020).

In 2020, a total of 376 solicitors identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, representing 1.1% of all solicitors in NSW, which is much lower than the general NSW population. According to the 2016 Australian census, 3.4% of all people in NSW identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

Ms Warner noted that diversity can be improved throughout the legal profession.
She said the Law Society’s Cultural Diversity Guidance outlines a range of measures that workplaces can take to improve cultural diversity:

  1. Commit to cultural diversity
  2. Measure cultural diversity
  3. Recruit widely and reduce barriers to entry
  4. Brief widely and look for opportunities to support cultural diversity in the wider community
  5. Develop an inclusive culture
  6. Evaluate measures.
  7. According to Ms Warner the Law Society’s Business Case for Diversity and Inclusion in the Legal Profession identifies examples where diversity and inclusion make sound economic sense for a law firm or legal practice.

“Creating an environment where every person, regardless of their background, has opportunities and support to reach their professional potential can result in better outcomes for the community at large, and better business outcomes for the profession,” Ms Warner said.

“Firms and solicitors with diverse and inclusive workplaces and practices can expect to benefit from an enhanced reputation in the broader community and improved access to a diverse client base.”

“Having a diverse and inclusive legal profession puts us in stronger position to serve our state’s vibrant and diverse citizenry,” she said.

The Law Society’s Culturally Diverse Guidance is available here.