8 June 2022

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CLSB targets “exclusionary behaviours” in Costs Lawyer community

Regulator joins forces with counterparts in rest of profession to make stand against conduct which hinders diversity and inclusion

The Costs Lawyer Standards Board (CLSB) has pledged to make “full use” of its regulatory powers “to confront any exclusionary behaviour in the Costs Lawyer community”.

It made the commitment in a joint statement with the other seven frontline legal regulators and the Legal Services Board (LSB) to challenging ‘counter-inclusive’ behaviour by those they oversee.

The statement reaffirms their commitment to taking action to ensure more inclusive workplaces for lawyers and that the profession better reflects the society and consumers it serves.

The statement, Tackling counter-inclusive misconduct through disciplinary processes, says: “While there have been some improvements in diversity and inclusion in the sector, there remains a great deal of work to be done.

“It is still more difficult to progress as a lawyer – sometimes much more difficult – if you are, for example, a woman, or if you are from an ethnic minority, or if you are a disabled person, LGBTQ+, or are from a lower socio-economic background. This needs to change much further and faster than it has in the past.”

The regulators specifically commit to three principles:

  • Counter-inclusive misconduct (conduct which intentionally or unintentionally has the effect of narrowing or denying opportunities to people because of their background or characteristics), is serious and will be challenged and dealt with appropriately;
  • Taking every opportunity to ensure that its seriousness is reflected in a consistent way within standards and codes, and in their approaches to disciplinary action; and
  • Supporting each other in ensuring a consistent message to promote understanding across the whole sector that counter-inclusive misconduct and behaviour “must and will be tackled effectively wherever it is found”.

In recognition of their independence, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and Bar Tribunals and Adjudication Service have made separate but complementary commitments to ensure that training, procedures and policies remain in place to enable them to impose sanctions that make clear the seriousness of sexual misconduct, racial or other discrimination or bullying.

“This will act as a deterrent and encourage the reporting of misconduct,” said the LSB, which organised the statement.

The LSB said: “Creating a truly inclusive legal profession will require sustained leadership at all levels. Regulation can underpin this leadership and today’s publication signifies a strong commitment by all involved to do so.”

CLSB chief executive Kate Wellington said: “While it’s important to create pathways into the legal profession that are accessible to everyone, that alone is not enough. We must create a professional culture that makes lawyers feel sufficiently safe and supported to bring their whole selves to work each day.

“Exclusionary conduct undermines that vision and runs counter to the professional principles that lawyers must uphold. In line with the statement published today, we commit to making full use of our regulatory tools to confront any exclusionary behaviour in the Costs Lawyer community.”

LSB chief executive Matthew Hill said: “Today’s announcement affirms our collective commitment to doing everything we can to create a profession that is the most open and inclusive in the world.

“Everyone should feel safe at work, and we will work together to tackle and stamp out exclusionary conduct, including inappropriate banter, bullying and sexual misconduct.

“Developing more inclusive workplaces will not only help deliver more professional services, but it will ensure people can contribute different ideas and fresh thinking that will lead to innovation across the sector.”