Everything is changing for the Bar communities | Opinion

The Law Society of England and Wales may be nearly 200 years old, but it is focused on building a plan for modern change and delivering the best service to our members, while upholding the rule of law and ensuring that the British public can access justice.

Earlier this year, our Board of Directors accepted the recommendations of an independent review we commissioned of our communities.

This review revealed that, among other things, the word “Divisions” is not very inclusive. From today, our communities will become “networks”.

Our four Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) communities, which include our Ethnic Minority Lawyers Division, Disability Lawyers Division, LGBT+ Lawyers Division and our Women Lawyers Division, will now be known as:

  • Ethnic Lawyers Network
  • Disabled Lawyers Network
  • LGBTQ+ Lawyers Network
  • Women Lawyers Network

Three of these committees also made other name changes.

Our Ethnic Solicitors Network has decided to drop the term ‘minority’. The committee believes that the term is outdated and promotes negative connotations.

The consensus was to continue to use the term “ethnic” because it is the most common and easily identifiable word for a race or national group of people.

Meanwhile, board members of the Disabled Solicitors Network believe their new name better reflects the social model of disability, which was developed by people with disabilities and which we support.

This model says that people are disabled by barriers in society and people’s attitudes, not by their impairment or difference.

Not everyone uses the social model, just like not everyone agrees with the name changes of other networks.

It’s up to them how each chooses to talk about themselves, but these changes were made after consultation with the networks’ committees, made up of people from the affected communities.

The LGBTQ+ Solicitors Network agreed that the addition of the Q is designed to be more inclusive.

The inclusion of the “Q” in the acronym LGBTQ+ is frequently used to recognize people who identify as “queer” or who are “questioning” their sexuality and gender identity.

It is hoped that the changes to the community names will allow the Law Society to work closely with even more members.

Networks

Along with our D&I communities, we are also changing the way we support our junior attorneys, small firms, in-house members, and judge advocates.

Today we are launching our Junior Solicitors Network (JSN), which will replace our Junior Lawyers Division, while our Small Firms Division and In-House Division will now be known as the Small Firms Network and in-House Network.

Our Judge Advocates Division, which supports lawyers interested in a judicial career, will now be known as the Judge Advocates Network.

These changes more fully reflect our approach to inclusivity and collaboration.

The JSN – like the JLD before it – will give junior lawyers the time and space to talk to us about the issues they face and how the Bar can support them in their careers in the profession.

Throughout the year, the JSN Advisory Committee will help the Law Society formulate plans and respond to junior lawyers’ priorities and issues.

The committee will also help the Law Society refine content for our Future of Work conference, suggest speakers for webinars on workplace culture, and shape thematic in-person seminars and networks hosted in London, in Wales and the regions.

The committee will also work with the Law Society as it influences legal aid, the accessibility of the Barristers Qualifying Examination and our initiative on 21st justice of the century.

The Law Society will continue to support and collaborate with the National Junior Lawyers Division (formerly JLD) and with nearly 50 independent local JLDs in England and Wales.

Change across the organization

Over the past year, we have made progress on the resources available to our members.

We have created and introduced new informative and easily accessible members and community pageswhich means our members can more easily find information relevant to them and their practice.

In September, we launched our diversity and inclusion (D&I) frameworkwhich serves as a roadmap for workplaces to develop and implement a strategic approach to D&I.

We also launched our D&I and small business resource centerswhich offer a range of support including practice notes, e-learning, events and the ability to connect with other lawyers in these areas, all in one place.

Our small business digital community, called Connect, has over 1,500 members, who can discuss issues and topics in a members-only online forum. Later this fall, we will also be launching our internal digital peer support community.

On top of all this, we will be hosting over 50 themed and networking events in London, Wales, online and across all regions in 2022 and 2023.

Standing still is not an option. We strive to provide a valuable service to our members, who do so much to uphold the rule of law and provide access to justice to the public across England and Wales.

Lubna Shuja is president of the Law Society of England and Wales

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