15 June 2020

Panel debate with UK regulators delayed after complaints over lack of diversity

Diversity concept

Netlaw Media postpones web seminar to review composition of speakers after 'listening to community'

The organisers of a UK online panel debate involving an all-white and male speaker line-up has been delayed after criticism about the lack of diversity among the panellists.

The Virtual Roundtable With the Regulators was due to take place tomorrow (16 June) and was originally slated to be moderated by Professor Stephen Mayson, honorary professor of law at the University of London, and feature Matthew Hill, chief executive of the Legal Services Board, Paul Philip, chief executive of the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Mark Neale, director general of the Bar Standards Board, and Simon Davis, president of the Law Society.

'You’ve got to be shitting me,' was the response of Justin North, director of consultancy Janders Dean in a post on LinkedIn. 'Now more than ever, this is unacceptable and sends a woeful message that this is what the face of justice looks like in our country.'

The post had attracted 243 likes by Monday morning (15 June), with 78 comments, overwhelmingly supportive of his call for a rethink.

'It's nice to see men calling out these issues,' said Fionn Bowd, CEO of Bowd Lawyers in Melbourne. 'Refreshing.'

'Cannot believe in June 2020 we are still seeing this,' added leadership consultant Shevonne Joyce. 'With the high calibre of professionals out there to choose from, it's simply unacceptable.'

Netlaw Media, the organisers of the debate, responded by posting on the thread its decision to delay the debate to review the composition of the panel.

The statement underlined the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and pointed out that it was the first all-male panel for a number of years because ‘we wanted to hear the voices from the heads of the relevant legal authorities who govern the UK legal system’. 

It added: 'The issue of diversity has been highlighted within our community and we have taken your comments on board and listened.

'Already in the planning but not announced in our recent post is that we have two more diverse, relevant and influential panellists, as we recognise completely that diversity is a major issue the sector needs to tackle.'

North welcomed the move, posting: 'Thanks to Netlaw Media Ltd for owning the issue, standing up to face their community’s concerns, and listening to the legal industry’s valid feedback.' 

The Legal Services Board said: 'The planned event involved a panel that is not diverse and we should all have realised this sooner. The event has how been postponed and we agree this is the best course of action.

'In future, we will ensure events we take part in include a more diverse range of people. We are committed to creating and promoting an inclusive legal services sector that reflects the society we serve.'

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