Diversity in the Bermuda legal profession (II)

In a previous Blog post, I touched upon the issue of diversity in the Bermuda legal profession.

One of the challenges associated with promoting diversity is ensuring effective monitoring. Effective monitoring essentially requires a two-stage process: data collection and analysis.

The first step is to gather information on the diversity of a workforce, including potential recruits and existing employees. The quality of the monitoring is only as good as the quality of the data that is collected.

The data is usually then analysed by comparing it with other groups of people within the organisation, in the broader community, or perhaps against national labour market statistics. These comparisons may reveal differences between groups, for example, a disparity between the number of men and women being recruited. Interpretation is important. Differences can be quite normal and not necessarily an indication of bias. But if the disparity is of a significant level, it might be appropriate to probe deeper.

The English Bar Standards Board published a Report on Diversity at the English Bar in December 2015, which presented a summary of the latest diversity data available on the English Bar. The report is designed to assist the Bar Standards Board satisfy its statutory duties under the UK’s Equality Act 2010, and provides some evidence from which policies can be developed and implemented. Two core data sets were used to compile the Report’s findings: the Core Database 2015 and the Pupillage Registration Survey 2014-2015.

Of particular interest are the following English Bar Report’s findings:

  • Gender representation in the English Bar still remains an issue as women account for 35.9% (an increase of 0.9% since 2014) of the practising Bar while men account for 64% (an increase of 1% since 2014)”.
  • There remains an issue in relation to the progression of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) practitioners at the Bar“.
  • “There appears to be an underrepresentation of disabled practitioners at the Bar“.

Regrettably, the Bermuda Bar Association does not yet publish diversity data with the same level of detail as the English Bar Standards Board does (and it is unclear whether or not such data is even being collected or analysed by the Bermuda Bar Council or by the Government of Bermuda).

However, a rough analysis of the Bermuda Bar’s Practicing Members List (which includes both inhouse lawyers and private practice lawyers) suggests that, as at 2016:

  • about 51% of the Bermuda Bar is male, and about 49% is female;
  • about 55% of the Bermuda Bar is white, and about 45% is black or an ethnic minority; and
  • there is at least some diversity at the Bermuda Bar with respect to age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, marital or parental status, type of school attended, type of university attended, and socio-economic background, but it is impossible to assess this statistically, without further data.

As a simple snapshot, the gender and ethnicity statistics are promising (and better than the English equivalents), although plainly there is still some room for improvement.

What is difficult to assess, of course, is the extent to which individual law firms and professional service companies in Bermuda promote and encourage diversity across the board, as reflected, for example, in compensation levels, entry level positions, promotion opportunities, and equity partner numbers.

But what are the chances of compensation levels etc. being candidly reported in Bermuda?



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