Law Society of NI Launches First Diversity and Equality Plan

Pictured at the Law Society’s Centenary Conference, Tara Shine, Co-CEO Changes by Degrees, Professor Richard Susskind, Brigid Napier, President of the Law Society of Northern Ireland, Fergal Keane, Journalist and Author, David A Lavery , CB, Managing Director, Law Society of Northern Ireland

The President of the Law Society of Northern Ireland challenges the profession to redefine its future by embracing diversity, opening up access and tackling inequality.

Speaking to an audience of 350 lawyers at her ‘Shaping our Future Together’ conference, celebrating 100 years of the Society, Brigid Napier hailed the progress the profession has made over the past century and called for a pioneering approach to ensure that it continues to evolve.

In launching the company’s first diversity and equality action plan, Brigid Napier said, “Our centenary gives us the opportunity to celebrate all that the legal profession brings to society and to our Northern Ireland’s economy, but also to ensure that we lay a solid foundation for the next hundred years.

To mark its centenary, the Society commissioned two major reports to help it better understand how the profession addresses issues such as diversity and equality, and to establish its economic impact.

* The legal profession is now firmly established as a key driver of growth for the region, directly supporting over 6,000 jobs and contributing £460m to the local economy.

* Belfast is now an internationally renowned center of legal technology and home to more major international law firms than any other UK city outside of London. In Belfast and beyond, the network of lawyers, serving local communities, remains an essential part of life at NI.

* The profession is now predominantly female and almost three quarters of the recruitment of trainee notaries in 2022 are women. But there remains a deep gender gap in leadership, with the majority of partners in private practice being men.

* The gender gap is also significant in terms of pay, with the survey suggesting that male lawyers are paid more than their female counterparts.

The research also looked at broader issues affecting the profession, including LGBTQ+ representation, social mobility, and ethnic minority participation.