On the very crowded naughty step this week are the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the Law Society and, umm, firms of solicitors in general.
Shahrokh Mireskrandari, senior partner of Dean and Dean, has launched a claim for £10 million against the SRA and the Law Society at an employment tribunal, alleging racial and religious discrimination, harassment and victimisation by pursuing ‘numerous’ complaints against the firm over the last 5 years, only one of which produced a, minor, adverse finding. He accuses the Society and SRA of acting
unjustifiably, oppressively, disproportionately and outside their powers.
Meanwhile the SRA has, under pressure, set up a working party to investigate why 62.8% of interventions by the SRA in 2006 were against black, asian or unknown ethnicity solicitors, while 37% were against white solicitors, who make up 78.6% of all solicitors. (I’m very curious about the remaining 0.2% of interventions.)
On the topic of unjustifiable conduct, the Law Society’s own equal pay review revealed the shocking results that the median income for ethnic minority solicitors was 20% less than that of white solicitors. Even once factors like grade, gender, firm size, region, post-qualification experience and hours worked were taken into account, the gap remained at 17%.
Women solicitors earned 32% less than male solicitors. Even after grade, firm size, PQE, hours worked, work breaks taken and area of law were taken into account, the gap remained 7.6%.
The figures are appalling, way beyond any ‘accidental’ disparities. If they are accurate, the figures are a pretty damning indictment of our ‘meritocratic’ profession.
That said, a closer look at the sample size might cause a small doubt over the reliability of the survey.
Researchers quizzed 1,201 solicitors, 9% of whom were BME solicitors and 43% were female – described as a representative sample after weighting. The overall response rate was 76% and 52% for the salary questions.
On my maths that means 109 BME solicitors, of whom 56.7 answered the salary question. That strikes me as small sample and one that is pretty easily distorted, even using a median. This doesn’t mean the findings are wrong though, not at all.
It also suggests a sample of 516.3 women solicitors of whom 268.5 answered the salary question, which ought to be more reliable.