The UK’s new Lord Chancellor takes aim at the English legal profession and judiciary on diversity issues

The new Lord Chancellor, Elizabeth Truss, has used her recent Conservative party conference speech to call for more to be done to boost diversity in the UK’s legal profession and judiciary.

The first woman Lord Chancellor in 800 years used her conference address to the Conservative party faithful to promise reforms to prisons, jobs for armed forces personnel, a new-look human rights regime, and a modern justice system. However, she added that the latter ‘is not just reflected in its practices and processes but in its people’.

Currently only one in seven of QCs and one in three of partners in law firms are women,’ she said. ‘Fewer than one in ten judges come from ethnic minorities. Only a quarter went to state school. This is modern global Britain – we can do better than this.’

The justice secretary called for an ‘open’ legal system that drew on ‘all available talent in our society’. ‘If we are to transform this great nation into a “great meritocracy” the legal profession and our judiciary should be leading the field,’ she continued, before taking aim at the makeup of the UK’s highest court.

The Supreme Court is a vital part of our constitution and I cherish its independence. But can it be right that out of 12 judges in the Supreme Court only one is a woman and not a single one is from an ethnic minority? This would be difficult to justify in any boardroom or around the Cabinet table.’

Responding to the speech, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, chairman of the England and Wales Bar, has said that the Lord Chancellor was right to put diversity high up on her agenda.

I have previously discussed the issue of diversity in Bermuda’s legal profession and judiciary – where the available statistics appear to be better than those in England and Wales.

But it is a very stark fact that Bermuda’s highest Court of Appeal, the Privy Council (whose judges largely mirror those of the UK Supreme Court), has only one female judge and no ethnic minorities …

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