Number of solicitors on the roll reaches record high

The number of solicitors on the roll reached an all-time high in 2021, while record numbers of students graduated with law degrees, a new Law Society of England and Wales report has revealed.

Our annual statistics report 2021 was launched today (21 September).

Key findings for 2021 include:

  • In the twelve months to 31 July 2021, the number of solicitors with practising certificates (PC holders) reached 153,282, an increase of 2% on the previous year
  • A record number has also been reported for solicitors on the roll reaching 209,215, an increase of 3% from the year before
  • The number of women PC holders increased three times faster than the number of men; women now make up 53% of those practising in the profession
  • Representation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds continued to grow, reaching 18% of those with known ethnicity
  • The proportion of solicitors working in-house grew to 25%, a steady average increase of 1% each year (this is still a likely underestimate as some PC holders are not officially recorded as working in-house)
  • The number of students graduating with first degrees in law from universities in England and Wales in 2021 was the highest on record at 18,927. 81% of these graduates achieved a first- or upper second-class degree
  • The median age for both men and women PC holders grew by one year, making the median ages 46 and 40 respectively as of 2021
  • The number of firms within England and Wales have been steadily decreasing over the past five years, reaching 9,020 as of 2021
  • A third of firm head office closures came from mergers and change of legal entity status

“This report has been compiled for over 30 years and provides a comprehensive picture of how the solicitors’ profession has evolved over the long-run in terms of size and structure,” said Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce.

“It provides an authoritative record of the number of solicitors and the type of organisations in which they work.

“As an in-house lawyer myself, it is encouraging to see solicitors employed in-house by organisations, ranging from FTSE and private companies to local authorities now make up a quarter of the profession.

“It is also encouraging to see the number of women working in the profession and people from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic background.

“There is, however, more work to be done in increasing representation of those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic, and low socio-economic backgrounds, as well as increasing the number of women in the higher echelons of the profession.

“The decline in the number of firms also highlights the need for widespread investment in our justice system including legal aid rates to ensure lawyers are there when needed.”

Notes to editors

  • See the full report
  • Part 1 of the report looks at qualified solicitors, the sectors and the entities in which they work
  • Part 2 covers the development and entry of new solicitors including numbers pursuing law degrees, training contracts and being admitted to the profession through various routes
  • More information about the diversity of the profession is available in our diversity report, which was last published in 2020

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: Nick Mayo | 020 8049 4100

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