What is the Black Solicitors Network?
The Black Solicitors Network (BSN) is a Black-owned, not-for-profit organisation formed in 1995 that is committed to achieving equality of access, retention and promotion of existing and aspiring Black solicitors in the profession, and those seeking to enter the profession. BSN’s national membership now stands at circa. 5,000 and continues to grow. An inclusive rather than exclusive organisation, we welcome members from across the cultural and diversity spectrum.
BSN’s mission and offering to its membership and stakeholders are achieved through an extensive programme of initiatives and events including:
- BSN’s active participation in consultations initiated by The Law Society, the Solicitors Regulation Authority and other regulatory, parliamentary and government bodies relating to matters affecting BAME lawyers
- BSN student initiatives, such as our Grassroots Programme
- BSN’s Junior Lawyers’ Group
- BSN City’s Creating Pathways which is an annual mentoring and sponsorship programme for 2-6 PQE BAME lawyers
- Professional / career development and role model seminars and dinner events
- Networking events, including high profile Black History Month events
- BSN Jobs Board: online platform for jobs and career opportunities from employers who want to reach a diverse pool of talent
- BSN’s Diversity League Table/Study – diversity survey report of leading firms in the UK covering gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disabilities. This report offers case study, editorial, sponsorship and advertising opportunities in both print and digital formats
- BSN’s annual flagship gala event featuring the UK Diversity Legal Awards celebrating excellence in diversity and inclusion in the legal sector
- BSN Connect: an online directory for black and minority ethnic focused organisations and individuals providing legal services
Working in partnership with our partners, Corporate Members and committee volunteers, BSN creates and delivers this comprehensive range of initiatives which contribute to ensuring that our members are supported at all stages of their career and professional development.
BSN continually engages with law firms, chambers, institutions and professional bodies in driving our respective diversity agendas forward and provides thought leadership on D&I best practice to the legal profession. In June 2020, BSN penned an Open Letter to the legal profession following global anti-racism protests to encourage meaningful and tangible change on racial diversity in the sector.
What are the challenges with diverse recruitment?
Improving diverse representation within the workforce in a meaningful way is a complex challenge faced by employers. Within the legal sector, Black professionals are underrepresented in senior positions and within niche practice areas of law and are overrepresented within high street practice areas (e.g. criminal law). Black and ethnic minority representation is much improved in the junior, trainee and newly-qualified areas of corporate and commercial law, and as such, recruitment at the junior end can be less challenging however, the retention and promotion of these diverse professionals are still prominent and complex issues. Thus, lateral hiring within niche and/or senior roles challenging.
BSN’s wider work aims to address issues of access, retention and promotion across all areas of law via our events (for example, our Insider: Practice area series to increase insight, and our Imposter Syndrome event to address related issues), training sessions, workshops (including the Grassroots Programme) and mentoring programmes (including BSN Creating Pathways for mid-level lawyers seeking progression).
BSN’s Jobs Board is an integral part of this work but is not a stand-alone fix, and should be part of a wider, interwoven effort to improve diversity. Collaborating with BSN as a Corporate Member on our events and initiatives is an effective way to align your branding with our aims and reach our members.