Social mobility: a year in review

Throughout the past year, the Law Society of England and Wales has led a campaign to improve social mobility in the solicitor profession, in order to bring new voices from different backgrounds into the profession.

“Social mobility and diversity are key issues in my presidential plan, and I have made it my mission to remove barriers for aspiring solicitors from lower socio-economic backgrounds to join and succeed in the legal profession,” said Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce.

“As I enter my final week as president, I thought it best to reflect on what we’ve achieved on improving social mobility during my term, and how the work we achieved this year has laid the groundwork for years to come.

“Throughout my presidency I’ve met with hundreds of young people who have told me their stories. What inspired them to pursue a career in the profession, the hardships they’ve faced and their determination to use their experience to help our communities with all manner of legal issues.

“Social mobility is a deeply personal issue to me. I was brought up in a single-parent household on a council estate and I found I didn’t have the connections that others may have had to get their foot in the door when starting out.

“I kept persevering and eventually qualified as a solicitor in 2002, having found a training contract at a local firm in Buckinghamshire.

“That’s why I am so proud of the work the Law Society has done over the past year on social mobility.

“We held two webinars to support members drive social mobility in their organisation and launched a brand-new social mobility web hub with expert resources to help our members monitor and promote socio-economic diversity.

“We appointed 13 new social mobility ambassadors in 2021 and awarded 15 scholarships to talented aspiring solicitors who face exceptional social, education, financial or personal obstacles in joining the profession as part of our Diversity Access Scheme.

“I represent the solicitor profession on the City of London Socio-Economic Diversity Taskforce, which was commissioned by the UK government to improve socio-economic diversity at senior levels in financial and professional services.

“I’ve been involved in the Taskforce’s industry-wide consultation on how the UK government, regulators and sector bodies can incentivise employer action to boost social mobility.

“As part of this consultation, we held 10 regional roundtables across England and Wales to gather input from the legal profession, including with our social mobility ambassadors, the largest law firms and in-house solicitors.

“We spoke to over 170 lawyers, from trainee solicitors to managing partners and diversity and inclusion professionals from 113 organisations.

“The findings from these roundtables, alongside other roundtables held by other representative bodies across financial and professional services, are currently being considered by the Taskforce, which is due to publish its final report with recommendations in November.”

Judicial diversity

The Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) Diversity of the Judiciary 2022 found there is still work to be done to improve the ethnic and professional diversity of the judiciary.

I. Stephanie Boyce added: “We remain concerned about the continuous significant disparity in outcomes between solicitor candidates compared with barristers, across judicial exercises and have called for speedier progress in improving judicial diversity.

“The latest statistics have found there has been a reduction in the proportion of judges from a solicitor background.

“As a member of the Judicial Diversity Forum, we will seek to work alongside other organisations to further expand on its commitment on judicial diversity.

“This year the Forum agreed on a set of new questions which will record the socio-economic background of judicial office holders and lawyers from 2025 to align with best practice from the Social Mobility Commission.

“As I near the end of my term, I am sure that incoming president Lubna Shuja and staff at the Law Society will continue to fight for greater social mobility in the legal profession and ensure there is greater socio-economic diversity at all levels.”

Notes to editors

Read the Social Mobility Taskforce’s Baseline Survey Report

Read the Diversity of the Judiciary 2022 statistics report

Find out more about our Social Mobility Hub

Find out about our Social mobility ambassadors

Find out about our Diversity Access Scheme

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: Naomi Jeffreys | 020 8049 3928