The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) has released their Probate Diversity Report 2023, which sets out the results of diversity monitoring by ICAEW firms. These firms are accredited for the reserved legal service of probate as of 31 March 2023.
The Probate Diversity Report aims to help firms benchmark against other legal service providers and the wider profession. The data collated also meets a number of statutory
and regulatory obligations that fall to ICAEW as a regulator under the Equality Act 2010 and the Legal Services Act 2007.
The following are some of the points reported in the ICAEW Probate Diversity Report 2023:
- Alternative Business Structures (ABSs) and multi-partner firms continue to be the dominant participants. Only 34% operate as sole practitioners, which is consistent with 2021 findings.
- Only 4% of ICAEW probate accredited firm staff are in fully legal roles, which has gradually increased year on year. (2% in 2019, 3% in 2021, 4% in 2023). The introduction of ABSs was expected to encourage the development of a wider range of businesses, where legally qualified individuals could practice. but take up appears to be low.
- Probate accredited firms do differ from the wider population of ICAEW firms, as they are more likely to have more principals and provide a different balance of services.
- When it comes to Protected Characteristics, ICAEW probate accredited firms employ a higher proportion of staff aged under 25 compared to SRA firms (16% vs. 8%).
- The data suggests that ICAEW probate accredited firms are employing a greater number of staff with disabilities. According to the data 8% of staff surveyed state that their day-today activities are limited by a long-term health problem or disability.
- Linked to this, there has also been a slight increase (up 1% since 2021) in the proportion of those surveyed stating they live with a disability that falls within the definition in Equality Act 2010. However, data shows that these groups are still under-represented when compared to national data.
The data collated in the 38 page report, incorporates responses from all employees including principals, qualified and non-qualified staff and support staff.
The report itself concludes that there still is still some way to go, and improving diversity is a long-term process and it does take time for initiatives to have an impact.
That being said, the data shows that there are positive signs of progress among ICAEW probate accredited firms. There is an increased representation of those with a recognised disability, as well as those from an ethnic minority background, the LGBTQIA+ community and those of certain faiths.
The report also shows that firms are offering more flexible working arrangements. According to the data, this is important as the the opportunity to work from home is a key
factor in enabling staff to return to work following periods of leave, including parental leave.
The ICAEW believe that the findings position probate firms positively in the marketing scope of their legal services and to a wider consumer market.