Study finds greater diversity in Legal sector

It may have been in place since 2009, but the Diversity and Inclusion Charter now looks to be bearing fruit in terms of encouraging greater diversity and inclusion within the legal sector.

Finding from the 2015 solicitors’ diversity report by The Law Society has revealed that although much progress has been made in recent years, there is still more work that needs to be done.

On women

Since 2013 the number of female practitioners has risen from 47.7% in 2013 to 48.8% in 2015. However, female representation at board level remains low, with less than a third (28.8%) of partners being women.

On ethnicity

The report found that British, Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) legal practitioners represent just 11.1% of all partners across England and Wales. This is despite the fact that BAME solicitors (56.7% of whom are women) account for 13.9% of solicitors with PCs in 2015, a similar figure to the 13.7% recorded in 2014.

On disability

The report authors pointed out that people with disabilities are under-represented in the profession and at more senior levels. It also found that 6% of solicitors state having a long-term illness, health problem or disability (up from 3% in 2013).

On socio-economic backgrounds

Over 52.7% of solicitors are the first generations in their family to attend university, with the sector continuing to be more inclusive than many other professions.

The report authors highlight that while “the proportion of solicitors having attended independent/fee-paying schools (27.4%) is much higher than in society in general (7%), the proportion is well below estimates for professions generally.

It states that although those who occupy the most senior roles in the Armed Forces (71%), Medicine (61%), Civil Service and Government, 51% of partners in magic circle firms attended independent fee- paying schools

On industry growth

Over the last 12 months the number of solicitors has increased by 2.3% to 133,367 employed across 9,400 private practice firms – 4,200 solicitors are employed by 964 foreign law firms.

On next generation practitioners

In 2015, 23,855 people applied to study Law at a university in England and Wales – one-third (35.5%) of whom are BAME students. Similarly, over 15,000 law students graduated from university, with 71.1% of female graduates achieving firsts or upper second classifications compared to 65.2% for their male counterparts.

Speaking to the Law Gazette, Society president Robert Bourns said that while social mobility is gradually improving, “We have a lot of work to do before we can say with any confidence that we demonstrate equal opportunities for all.”

You can download the full report from The Law Society website by clicking here.