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Profession of legal services at highest level or in big firm is highly dominated by male lawyers from the highest socio-economic groups. By considering the recent statistics in England and Wales it can be said that legal profession is becoming increasingly diverse. In addition to this, there is sharp increase in the proportion of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) lawyers. Diversity in legal profession is assessed by factors such as age, ethnic, gender, social class and background[ Kieran Monaghan. Neuberger and the „F‟ word. (Durham University Conference 2008).]. These factors affect the outcome of efforts such as pay and career of the individual. Due to this aspect, it is not easy for under-represented group to develop a prosperous career.
In this aspect, main barrier faced by under-represented group is the financial barriers. It is because; entrance in legal profession is difficult and expensive. Individuals from lower social economic group are not financially prosperous due to which they face difficulty in attending training stages of this profession as these training sessions are costly [ Neuberger. Entry to the Bar Working Party. (The Bar Council 2007).]. Financial barriers in entrance arise because of disinclination by banking organizations in providing loans for training. In addition to this, recently there is increase in tuition fees in various universities due to which individuals are not able to afford this course.
The culture of the legal profession does not support ethnic minorities and women in progressing in this career. It is because; there is great emphasis placed on the networking. These groups do not attend legal event due to difference in their cultures and family commitments. Generally, females from all backgrounds face further obstacles to progression due to perceived rigidity by professionals. This trend prevents them from fulfilling family commitments in an effective manner[Wald, supra note 2, at 1105.]. These cultural aspects had created barriers in the success and due to this aspect their career choice is highly affected. In this aspect, qualitative studies by researcher shows that female and ethnic minorities prefer to select career in which there is scope of high flexibility and less scope of discrimination.
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The individuals have different beliefs and values and due to this fact there is an increasing gap between ethnic majority students and ethnic minority students in the attainment of higher education degree. In addition to this, minority students have high possibility of leaving their post secondary education. Generally, this aspect arises because environment does not accept ethnic minorities in this career. They have to face racial discrimination in college campus. In various cases, teachers do not have equivalent attitude towards these students[ Read, Archers and Leathwood. Challenging Cultures? Student Conceptions of „Belonging‟ and „Isolation‟ at a Post-1992 University. (Cited in Runnymede Community 2003).]. As a consequence, individual belong from under-represented group does not get fair opportunity to show their potential. Further, this fact also affects their academic reports.
Under-represented groups do not have facilities similar to individuals who belong from high social economic class. It is because; they are not aware of the legal courses and their admission process[ REDFIELD Sarah DIVERSITY REALIZED: (PUTTING THE WALK WITH THE TALK FOR DIVERSITY IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION , 2009. )13. pp. 20–2. ]. They are stuck with their traditional career opportunities. However, students who are interested in developing their career in this field are also not able to do so due to their poor financial position.
By considering this fact, it can be said that in-built advantage for children from higher socio-economic groups is that they are supplemented by links that have built them up over time between legal firms and independent schools. In this aspect, researchers had identified obstructions at a very early stage in the progress to the legal market. According to the study of Rolfe and Anderson (2003) some legislation firms had developed stronger links with selective and independent schools[ Heather Rolfe and Tracy Anderson. A firm choice: law firms‟ preferences in the recruitment of trainee solicitors. (Commissioned by the Law Society 2003).]. Due to this aspect, there is difference in knowledge and skills of majority and ethnic minority group. For such approach, one public sector organization had provided justification that selected school was attended by their trainees. This obstacle is intelligibly applicable more to those individuals who do not attend selective schools and are most likely to be those from a lower class or with lower incomes.
Diversity in legal profession in England and Wales has conflicting trend. Various law schools had made effort in order to diversify the ranks of the profession. Law is a competitive profession for entrance regardless of their race and gender. Further, reputed big law firms are working hard for recruiting more diversified pool. For this aspect, they had introduced strategies such as CV blind recruitment in which candidates are judged solely on the basis of their interview and essay. In addition to this, workshops are arranged to judge practical skills of the individual.
In order to provide equal opportunity to the under-represented group work experience and mentoring is provided so that they can groom their skills and capabilities. By considering their financial problems, scholarship programs are arranged for these groups. However, there are fewer such facilities at higher levels[ Wald, supra note 2, at 1101. ]. In order to resolve this issue, authorities are planning for implementing apprentice program in legal profession. It is because; direct recruitment on the basis of protected characteristic of under-represented groups is not supported by the law. Due to this fact, authorities are planning to make them more qualified and confident so that they can able to compete with other groups.
Description linked to the under-represented group in legal profession is mainly focused on the need of diversity in the field. This requirement has been affirmed by the bar associations, legal practitioners and scholars across the England and Wales. In last 20 years bar associations had enhanced their ability of fostering the diversity. In addition to this, they had employed various strategies for improving the rank of under-represented group.
Present struggle by law reforms for making improvement in the attainments of low income students and minority had made increase in fiscal pressures on the institutions of higher education. In this aspect, institutions had compensated for the lack of increased government support by increasing tuition[ Bottero wendy. Stratification: Social Division and Inequality. (Oxford. Routledge 2005).]. This factor has also impacted on those students who can afford to pay for the college. It is because; minority families tend to have lower incomes in comparison to white families. By considering this aspect, institutions are striving to make their educational programs affordable in order to provide better opportunities for increased access and attainment.
In order to support under-represented group, authorities are providing various facilities to these individuals at each stage in comparison to those who belong from higher social-economic background. Authorities in legal profession are providing knowledge to students through academic schools. These schools are supported by Russell Group University and law firms[ Cook and Muzio. Professional Education, Global Professional Service Firms and Professional Work in Europe: the case of Law. (University of Lancaster and University of Leeds 2010)].These organizations provide knowledge regarding legislation and help the students in enhancing their work experience in order to make them more appealing while employing in prestigious firms. This aspect provides competitive advantage to the individual who belong to under-represented group in recruitment and selection process through which they can get fair chance to present themselves.
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Several legal corporate organizations are engaged in leading diversity programs developed by government. Objective of this program is to provide identity to female and minority solicitor in legal profession of England and Wales. These initiatives by authorities are mainly categorized into four parts i.e. organizational change for enhancing diversity; in-firm support and mentoring; employment outreach; and raising awareness and best-practice recognition industry-wide[Bar Ass’n Presidential Diversity Initiative, Diversity in the Legal Profession: The Next Steps, AM. BAR ASS’N 9 (2011). In these strategic programs, individuals from lower socio-economic groups are motivated for entrance of legal profession instead of the individuals who already have this aspiration. For this aspect, they provide them proper information along with the scholarship opportunities.
The Legal Services Commission (LSC) in UK is committed to diversity and equality in legal profession. Main objective of this organization is to create a platform where all individuals have equal opportunity to show their potential. For this aspect, they had created culture of respect in legal profession by supporting inclusive environment and valuing differences. For this aspect, they had provided guidelines regarding equality and diversity provisions in 2007. All legal firms and institutions were obliged to act in accordance with these guidelines in order to prevent discrimination. Further, by considering these guidelines they had provided flexible approach especially to female and youth so that they can manage their work with their additional priority aspects.
In accordance with the present study, it can be articulated that under-represented group are not able to get equal opportunities similar to individuals who belong from high socio economic group. It is because; they have to face financial difficulties and cultural barriers. These aspects create barriers in professional career of solicitor. By considering this aspect, professional bodies in England and Wales are highly committed for promoting diversity. This fact can be noticed by changing trends in statistics of legal profession. However, challenges faced by under-represented groups are not completely resolved[Gillespie Alisdai, The English Legal System. (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2007).]. Professional bodies are recommended to enhance flexibility in session course by which preference of youth can be altered for the legal profession. Further, training course should be started at senior level by which under-represented group can attain good opportunities. Law firms are recommended to provide work environment in which individuals are not judged on the basis of their protected characteristics. Thus, in recruitment process they should make use of fair and justified techniques. With this aspect, they appoint more qualified individuals at the workplace.
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