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International Women’s Day: Women-owned law firms flourishing

7 March 2017

Equality in the solicitor profession is moving closer with more than a third of law firms in England and Wales now estimated to be majority-owned by women, the Law Society of England and Wales said to mark this year's International Women's Day on 8 March.

"The proportion of law firms majority-owned by women far outstrips the national estimate of women-owned small and medium enterprises (SMEs), reflecting the changing culture in the legal sector," said Law Society president Robert Bourns.

"As the professional body for solicitors, we see real power in diversity and support progress for the best, regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation, so our profession reflects the population it serves.

“We also know that businesses benefit from strong diversity and inclusion policies and practices that help attract both clients and the best talent."

  • An estimated 34% of the 9,403 law firms in England and Wales in 2015 were majority-owned by women, compared to a national estimate of women-owned SMEs of 21%
  • Women now make up 48% of solicitors
  • For the past 20 years, women have accounted for more than half of new entrants to the profession (61.1% in 2015), so the proportion of Practising Certificate (PC) holders who are women is set to increase for the foreseeable future
  • Despite the steady increase in the number of women entrants to the profession, only 28.8% of partners are women
  • 61% of family solicitors are women
  • More women graduated with first and upper second law degrees (71.1% ) than men (65.2%)

Robert Bourns added: "The Law Society and our Women Lawyers Division are committed to a range of measures to support career progression and satisfaction for women.

"We work closely with law firms and other organisations to encourage them to adopt more flexible working practices and to put in place policies that support discrimination-free career progression.

"Our Diversity and Inclusion Charter is another way in which we identify and share good practice to support women fulfil their potential."

 

Notes to editors

The Law Society supports and advises all women solicitors including graduates, roll members, women on a career break and retirees, no matter their area of practice. It provides key news, a comprehensive program of events, up-to-date opinions from industry experts, and tailored training for women solicitors.

The highly regarded Women Lawyers Division Returners course provides returning solicitors - men and women - with the tools they need to return to the profession after a career break.

The Law Society Diversity and Inclusion Charter, which has more than 400 signatories, is a public commitment by legal practices to promote the values of diversity, equality and inclusion throughout their business. Whether it's through recruitment, retention, career progression or training and development, all our signatories are committed to improving opportunities for people in the legal profession, regardless of their background or circumstances.

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 | +44 (0)20 7320 5830