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BAME and women solicitors on the rise

Last updated: 16 June 2017

A hike in the proportion of solicitors coming from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds - who now make up 16% of the profession - was today hailed by the Law Society of England and Wales as a "cause for celebration", as it released figures from its annual statistics report. The proportion of women solicitors also continues to grow steadily.

Law Society president Robert Bourns commented: "Increasing diversity in the solicitor profession is a powerful force for good and a cause for real celebration. Not only do solicitors themselves come from an ever widening pool - reflecting the diverse society of which we are part and which we serve - but new business models are flourishing, allowing us to provide an ever more tailored service to our clients.

"However, the gender and ethnicity gap at more senior levels continues: more than 40% of male solicitors become partners - compare that to less than 20% of women and just over 20% of BAME solicitors.

"Firms with good diversity, inclusion and social mobility policies have a competitive advantage. The Law Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Charter, our Diversity Access Scheme and our work with law firms all help ensure talented individuals have fair access and opportunities to pursue their ambitions within the solicitor profession."

Key findings in the annual report of the profession include:

  • There were 136,176 solicitors with practising certificates (PC holders), and 175,160 individuals in total on the Roll of solicitors on 31 July 2016, up by nearly one-third in the last 10 years
  • The number of trainee registrations in the year to 31 July 2016 was 5% higher than in the previous 12-month period
  • In 2015-16, 62% of admissions were female, up from 53% 15 years ago
  • Women under the age of 35 make up almost one-fifth of all PC holders
  • 16% of solicitors (19,145) are from BAME backgrounds more than double the proportion in the previous decade. 57% of these are women, in contrast to 48% of white solicitors who are women
  • The proportion of BAME solicitors at partner level rose slightly relative to 2015 to 22.9% from 22%
  • A rise in those with unknown ethnicity reflects a move to online self-provision of ethnicity by new solicitors through the Solicitors Regulation Authority website. Without more complete ethnicity data for new admissions, the ability to monitor the ethnic composition of the profession has deteriorated since 2015
  • 22% of PC holders worked in-house in 2016, up 2.5% on the previous year
  • Almost three-fifths (59%) of firms’ total revenue was from business to business work
  • 475 alternative business structures (ABSs) were in operation: 116 more than a year earlier. The majority (67%) of ABSs are set up as limited company structures.
  • ABSs made up 5% of all firms that were the main practising address of at least one PC holder in 2016 (9,430)
  • ABSs  contributed 11.7% of total turnover in the market (a total of £2.2 billion according to the available 2014/15 turnover information). 

Notes to editors

A copy of the Law Society annual statistics report for 2016 in full is available on request.

This press release replaces the version published on 5 June.

About the Law Society

The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.

Press office contact: Harriet Beaumont | 020 7320 5830