The Law Society’s legal procurement protocol gives purchasers of legal services the chance to publicly commit to best practice in equality, diversity and inclusion through open and transparent tender processes. Aisha Dass, our equality and diversity manager, explains how the protocol and other initiatives work.

The legal procurement protocol, launched in 2009 by the Law Society, BT and the Society of Asian Lawyers, is aimed at purchasers of legal services.

Signatories are encouraged to buy legal services from providers who meet equality standards. These providers, in turn, are asked to sign up to the Law Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Charter, to demonstrate their commitment to equality and diversity.

Purchasers of legal services are increasingly demanding, in the tendering process, that law firms demonstrate their commitment to diversity. By signing up to the protocol, in-house legal departments are agreeing to include standard equality and diversity considerations in an open and transparent tender process, thereby helping to challenge discrimination, and promote a diverse and inclusive legal profession.

By signing up to the protocol, you show colleagues, clients and competitors that you are committed to working with firms who value diversity and inclusion, and are taking practical steps to challenge discrimination in the legal profession.

Dan Fitz, general counsel and company secretary to BT Group plc, who helped to launch the protocol, is a keen supporter of the initiative.

He says: “The intellectual argument for diversity is winning, but we will only enjoy its benefits to legal services if we put theory into practice. The Charter and procurement protocol will ensure that diversity, and its benefits, are a key factor in the procurement of external legal services.”

Protocol partners

All purchasers of legal services can sign up to the protocol and become the Law Society’s protocol partners. It doesn’t matter whether your in-house legal team employs two or 200. All that matters is that you outsource some work to external firms, and that you’re committed to taking practical action against discrimination and promoting equality and diversity.

Recognising the opportunity to communicate their commitment to diversity, a number of leading businesses, including BT, Barclays, BP and National Grid, are already committed as protocol partners. A growing number of local authorities, including the London Boroughs’ Legal Alliance and Birmingham City Council, as well as other public sector organisations, are signing up.

BP has been a long term supporter of the protocol. Its general counsel, Rupert Bondy, says: “BP strongly supports the principles set out in the Charter and is pleased to be a protocol partner. It is important for BP’s suppliers to reflect BP’s own commitment to diversity and the protocol will advance this in the area of legal services.”

Protocol support tools

Implementing the protocol is straightforward - there is little effort involved for the purchaser. We provide information and support tools to help you assess the performance of suppliers on diversity and inclusion:

  • Our model questionnaire lets you evaluate potential suppliers, measuring everything from their diversity statistics to the steps they are taking to recruit, develop and support minority and under-represented groups.
  • The supplier scorecard helps you evaluate responses to the model questionnaire, and gives the overall response a score to help build diversity and inclusion into the overall decision making process for the tender.
  • The template letter lets existing suppliers know that you have signed up to the protocol and why, and that you will be asking questions on diversity and inclusion when you next refresh your network of suppliers.
  • Guidance and checklists covering a wide range of best practice on embedding diversity and inclusion in the procurement process.
  • Ongoing support and guidance from the Law Society, including access to best practice through the secure Diversity Charter member-only web portal, the opportunity to network with other protocol partners and to get involved in other diversity related initiatives.

The protocol support tools are designed to allow purchasers and providers of legal services to consistently evaluate diversity and inclusion when completing the tender process.

Reed Smith LLP has been a signatory to the Law Society’s Diversity Charter for a number of years. Its diversity partner, Sakil Suleman, says:

“The Law Society’s procurement protocol is a terrific initiative that will hopefully bring some consistency across the industry, helping firms to make progress and measure that progress in the diversity field to the benefit of the firm and its clients.”

Supplier support

Most suppliers of legal services, like purchasers, recognise the importance of good diversity and inclusion practices. Many suppliers have excellent track records in supporting the promotion of diversity.

The procurement protocol supports this by enabling suppliers to show how they are contributing to a more diverse and inclusive legal profession and to prove their commitment to potential clients.

We offer support for supplies through our Diversity and Inclusion Charter. This is a public commitment by providers of legal services to develop, implement and promote diversity and inclusion practices across their businesses.

Over 350 legal practices are currently signed up to the Charter, representing over a third of all solicitors in private practice. Its signatories are supported through ongoing and dedicated support from the Law Society.

Signing up to the procurement protocol

Signing up to the procurement protocol is simple. All that is required is an email from the general counsel / head of legal or director equivalent to stating their commitment to the protocol.