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Increasingly diverse solicitor profession more closely reflects society

7 October 2019

Almost one sixth of solicitors now come from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, an annual increase of 2.1% hailed by the Law Society of England and Wales as a cause for celebration as it released the latest data profiling the profession.

However, only a quarter of new solicitors provided ethnicity information to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in 2017-18, while the proportion of the entire practising profession for whom there is no ethnicity data is at 17% and growing steadily.

“It is a real cause for celebration that solicitors come from an ever-widening pool, reflecting the diverse society of which we are part and which we serve,” Law Society president Simon Davis said.

“Without more complete ethnicity data our ability to monitor either the ethnic make-up of the profession or the impact of diversity and inclusion initiatives will continue to deteriorate.

“From the available data, the ethnicity and gender gap at more senior levels continues: more than 40% of male solicitors in private practice are partners - compare that to less than 20% of women and just over 20% of BAME solicitors.

"We are making progress, but we need to do more to ensure our profession reflects the community we serve.

"There is ample research which shows that diversity, inclusion and social mobility bring a competitive advantage. The Law Society 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 survey of the profession include:

  • There were 143,167 (+2.5%) solicitors with practising certificates (PC holders), and 188,868 (+3.8%) individuals in total on the roll of solicitors on 31 July 2018
  • The number of students graduating with first degrees in law from universities in England and Wales in 2018 was the highest on record at 16,256
  • The number of new students accepted onto first degree law courses increased further (to 24,575 for 2018-19) which should provide for further growth in law graduates over the next three to five years
  • 50.8% of the profession are women
  • In 2017-1, 62% of admissions were female, up from 53% 17 years ago
  • Women under the age of 35 make up almost one-fifth (18%) of all PC holders
  • 16.9% of solicitors are from BAME backgrounds, more than double the proportion in the early 2000s. The gender and ethnicity gap at more senior levels continues: more than 40% of male solicitors in private practice are partners - compare that to less than 20% of women and just over 20% of BAME solicitors
  • 30.1% of partners are women
  • 11.2% of partners have a BAME background and 36% of BAME partners are women
  • 22.4% of PC holders worked in-house in 2017-18
  • Almost three-fifths (59.8%) of firms’ total revenue was from business to business work

Notes to editors

Read the Annual Statistics Report 2018

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 8049 3854