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Summit sets legal profession targets on diversity and bullying

11 June 2019

Ambitious targets to tackle bullying and increase diversity in the legal profession have been announced at a summit marking 100 years of women in the law.

They including achieving a 50/50 gender balance in senior positions in legal firms by 2028, through introducing family-friendly flexible working among other measures. Although women already make up the majority of legal professionals in Scotland, only around 30% of partners in firms are women, and the pay gap across the profession stands at 23%.

In a speech, Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC also called on the profession to adopt a zero tolerance approach to bullying in the workplace.

Last year's Profile of the Profession survey carried out by the Law Society of Scotland found that more than a fifth of women reported having experienced bullying or sexual harassment while working in a legal practice over the past five years.

Lorna Jack, chief executive of the Society, commented: "We have been seen as a leader in the gender equality debate by other legal bodies around the globe.

"Great progress has been made, including a reduction in the gender pay gap over the last five years, but there is more to do. We welcome the Scottish Government’s support for our zero tolerance approach to bullying.

"We strive for a modern, diverse and inclusive legal profession which allows people from all backgrounds to have equal opportunity to thrive in their careers."

Gordon Jackson QC, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, added: "Bullying and harassment have absolutely no place in the profession, and the Faculty fully endorses zero tolerance of it.

"All advocates are self-employed and free to make their own preferred working arrangements, but the Faculty tries to do all we can to assist members seeking flexibility in their working life.

"We are conscious of a gender imbalance in our membership and are taking positive steps to encourage as many women as possible to consider a career at the bar."

Welcoming the initiative, Community Safety Minister Ash Denham responded: "Scotland is fortunate to have a legal profession with expertise, compassion and many brilliant minds. Anything which legal professionals or new entrants to the sector could perceive as a barrier to entry or progression is unacceptable, which is why I am calling on the sector to act.

"Achieving these targets will be a challenge, but one I am confident that the legal profession can achieve. By working collaboratively, we will create a legal climate that is ambitious, dynamic and adaptable, and fulfils the ambitions I believe our young people should have the chance to achieve."

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