Law Society wins Disability Initiative of the Year Award, but department head says ‘there is still work to do’

The Women in Diversity in Law Awards has awarded the Law Society of England and Wales the Disability and/ Neurodiversity Initiative of the Year Award.

Polly Williams, head of diversity and inclusion at the Law Society, said:

“We are extremely proud and excited to have won this award. This is the culmination of many years’ work for the Society and its Disabled Solicitors Network (DSN).

“The Legally Disabled? research, co-produced by Cardiff Business School and the DSN, focused the profession’s mind on this sometimes neglected area, as for the first time we had data for disabled people’s experiences in the profession.

“Our initiatives have always sought to address findings from the research. We have published guidance and tips on accessibility, held roundtables, celebrated Disability History Month and encouraged members to share their experience, as well as continued to facilitate networking opportunities.

“We would like to thank the Legally Disabled? researchers Professor Debbie Foster and Dr Natasha Hirst, the DSN committee members over the years who have informed and supported our work, most recently led by current chair Reena Parmar and immediate past chair Jane Burton, and all those individuals and organisations who have shared their experiences and knowledge.

“There is still much to do, and we look forward to continuing to work together to achieve it.”

The judging panel for the awards included CMO of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner Alessandra Almeida Jones; Solicitor, Part-Time Judge and Non-Executive Board Member and Chair of the awards Alexandra Marks; Annabel Dumbell who is the Global I&D Lead for Accenture Legal and Lesley Wan who is General Counsel & Whistleblowing Officer for All Africa Capital. The event took place at the Brewery in London – with Samantha Woodham from The Divorce Surgery scooping up Innovator of the Year and Fiona Adams of Greenberg Traurig winning the large practice Law Firm Leader of the Year.

The award comes after the Law Society published data that shows there is still a pay gap between genders and those in the trans community within the law sector. Percentages fall below the national average, and those with a disability are now earning the same as white, male, colleagues – new data shows.

Strides have been made in the pay gap between those with a disability and those who are non-disabled. Last year, disabled people saw the pay gap close within the law sector by 8.5%. In 2023 median disability pay gap was -12.0% in favour of disabled staff. More than 85% of both disabled and non-disabled staff received a bonus in 2023.

Law Society chief executive officer Ian Jeffery said:

“In line with our Diversity and Inclusion Framework, our  2022-2023 activity focused on establishing our purpose, engaging with key stakeholders and gathering data.

“Reducing pay gaps is a priority for the Law Society and we are committed to achieving this by focussing on actions that are likely to have the biggest impact.

“We have introduced a range of measures over the past two years, including anonymised recruitment, flexible working policy and mandatory inclusive recruitment training.

“These are likely to have a positive impact on pay gaps, but will unlikely impact pay gap data collected in April 2023.

“Reducing our pay gaps to zero does not automatically equate to an equitable, diverse, and inclusive environment in which everyone can thrive. Our actions are designed to further unpack what is causing our pay gaps and realise our broader equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) vision.”

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