Practising certificate (PC) holder survey 2019

During summer 2019, a representative sample of 1,664 of our members completed a survey about their working lives. This report provides an overview of the survey’s main findings.

Further analysis will be done to inform our work around diversity and inclusion and also our communities.

Key findings

Use of technology

Awareness of technologies involved in the development and delivery of legal services is generally high.

There’s often a gap between awareness and use of different types of technology. This is particularly evident for some of the newer, or more niche technologies.

Within private practice, firms of all sizes are trying and embracing technology solutions, with those in larger firms (26+ partner) more likely to use:

  • technology assisted review software
  • contract review software
  • custom-built applications for clients

There’s an interest in receiving more training and support to improve the efficiency and use of technology in the workplace.

Findings echo Oxford University’s March 2020 report on lawtech adoption and training, where 90% of respondents indicated they need training in lawtech.


Technology, access to justice and the rule of law

Lawtech: a comparative analysis of legal technology in the UK and in other jurisdictions

Health and well-being

More than one in 10 solicitors reported experiencing a mental health condition within the last two years.

38% of solicitors agreed they find it difficult to switch off from their work in their personal time, with 40% of private practitioners not being able to switch off, compared to 32% of government and 30% of in-house solicitors.

Around one in 10 solicitors reported experiencing either ‘severe’ or ‘extreme’ levels of work-related stress in the job. One in 20 had taken time off due to work-related stress.

12% of solicitors had experienced negative behaviours such as bullying, harassment or discrimination in their workplace over the previous 12 months.

Females are three times more likely than males to have experienced discrimination in the workplace – mostly a result of bullying or adverse discrimination. 14% of women reported discrimination, compared to 4% of males.


International Bar Association: Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession


The Solicitors' Charity

Helplines for solicitors

Working hours and access to flexible working

88% of solicitors are employed on permanent contracts. Excluding equity partners and sole practitioners, a 16% of male solicitors are self-employed compared to 5% of females.

Almost one in five are employed on a part time basis. 17% work part-time, working on average (mean) 30 hours in a typical week. 25% of women work part-time compared to 9% of men.

83% of solicitors work full-time, working on average (mean) 46 hours in a typical week.

46% of solicitors agreed they’re regularly expected to work longer than their contractual hours.

83% of solicitors had access to flexible working, with 58% making use of such opportunities. 61% of women worked flexibly compared to 55% of men.

Despite flexible working being widely offered within law firms, take-up of flexible working opportunities was lower amongst private practitioners.

The cited benefits of flexible working included:

  • being able to spend the time saved commuting with family
  • attending to personal appointments and responsibilities
  • pursuing other interests

The same benefits were cited by those not currently making use of flexible working opportunities.


CIPD: Megatrends: Flexible working

Government Equalities Office: Family friendly working policies and practices report

What does it mean to be a good lawyer and a good dad?

Flexible working guidance

Organisational culture and support

Building on research on workforce planning, several of the Measuring Good Work questions were included in the 2019 PC holder survey.

As the pace of change increases, due to changes in technology, regulation and legal education, the workplace will change.

How businesses manage that change, how work is organised, supervised and supported, is likely to impact on job satisfaction and productivity (Skills and Employment Survey 2017).

  • Two-thirds (66%) of solicitors felt well supported in their job by their manager; 73% felt supported by their peers
  • 59% of solicitors agreed they were kept well informed about important changes in their organisation, with 40% agreeing that managers at their workplace were good at involving employees or employee representatives in decision making
  • Around three-quarters (74%) of solicitors felt like they belonged at their organisation; 78% of solicitors found their work meaningful
  • Around half (49%) of solicitors reported their job provided good career progression. 55% of private practitioners reported good career progression, compared to 32% of solicitors working in-house and 32% working in government
  • 76% of solicitors considered their organisation to be a fair and equal employer


Research to inform workforce planning and career development in legal services

Harvard Business Review: The Value of Belonging at Work

Diversity and inclusion

Survey findings reflected the trends in our annual statistics report:

  • 52% of survey respondents solicitors were women
  • BAME solicitors represent 16% of all PC holders, with Asian solicitors being the most well represented group (8%)
  • 5% of solicitors indicated they were LGBT
  • 16% of solicitors reported a long term physical or mental health condition or illness lasting or expected to last 12 months or more
  • Just under half the population of solicitors are of Christian faith. The next largest religious segment is Muslim (3%). 38% of PC holders state they have no religion
  • 40% of solicitors had caring responsibilities for children under the age of 16 and 20% had caring responsibilities for other adults


Cardiff University Business School: Legally Disabled? The career experiences of disabled people working in the legal profession

Women in Leadership in Law

Women in Law Pledge

Women in Leadership in Law: the need for gender equality in the legal profession

SRA: The business case for diversity 2018

Social mobility

Around three-quarters of solicitors hold a qualifying law degree.

Amongst those not holding a law degree, humanity subjects were favoured over the sciences, with the top three mentions being history (22%), politics (11%) and economics (10%).

Most solicitors will have been trained by private practice firms. The following statements reflect individuals current place of work.

44% of solicitors attended a Russell Group university. Half of in-house solicitors attended a Russell Group university compared to 43% of private practitioners and 32% of those working for government.

Within private practice, the proportion of solicitors attending Russell Group universities increase as firm size increases.

25% of solicitors working in 2-4 partner firms compared to 69% of those working in the largest size firms (81+ solicitors).

Half of solicitors had parents with qualifications below degree level. 51% of in-house solicitors had university educated parents, compared to 45% of private practitioner and 45% of government solicitors.

19% of solicitors attended a fee-paying school. The in-house sector has the highest proportion of solicitors who attended a fee-paying school (23%), compared to 19% of private practitioners and 12% of government solicitors.

Around half of solicitors came from households where the primary earner was a modern or traditional professional, or a senior manager or administrator.

5% of solicitors had a parent working in the legal profession.


The Bridge Group: Socio-economic background and early career progression in the law

The Social Mobility Commission: Employers Toolkit: Cross Industry Edition

Sutton Trust

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