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Study highlights barriers faced by black partners

Fewer than 1% of partners at major law firms in the UK are black, a new study has found.

The 1% Study, named after its main finding, found that just 90 out of 13,000 (0.69%) partners at firms in England and Wales were black.

The report, by specialist legal sector inclusion consultancy extense, aims to improve ethnic minority representation in the sector and suggests it could learn more from efforts in other industries to attract, retain and develop diverse recruits into the higher levels of businesses.

It identified five measures that law firms could implement to improve diversity at senior levels. These are: tying executive compensation to diversity and inclusion outcomes, support for the ”nuanced needs and talents acutely faced by black talent”; sponsorship programmes to target underrepresented talent; and delegating work and career development opportunities equitably through use of algorithmic technology.

David Lammy MP pointed out in the foreword to the study: “This figure lags significantly behind the black population in the UK. In recent years issues of racial inequity have been thrust into the spotlight. We must seize this momentum to drive positive societal change. Improving representation in the legal profession will enable the sector to benefit from the brilliance of difference, leveraging the rich and diverse tapestry of cultures and ethnicities that make up our national identity; and better reflect the global client base that the legal sector serves.”

Black people make up 3.3% of England and Wales’ population. People of Asian heritage constitute 7.5% of the UK population but there are nearly five times more partners who are Asian than black, found the study, which was endorsed by endorsed by the Law Society and the Black Solicitors Network.

The study interviewed 65 black partners and revealed themes such as outsider syndrome, receiving less high-quality work to tackle, more scrutiny than white colleagues and the lack of network access. The study took place over almost two years.

Five major law firms sponsored the study: Linklaters; Herbert Smith Freehills; Latham & Watkins; Hogan Lovells; and DLA Piper.

extense, which in 2021 was appointed to a government-commissioned taskforce working group to boost socio-economic diversity at senior levels across UK professional services, is holding an event on 20 October to discuss the findings (

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