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Law Society: Solicitor diversity on the rise

Gender and ethnicity gap among partners remains, society's annual report finds

5 June 2017

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The proportion of solicitors from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds has more than doubled in the last decade, new figures reveal.

Sixteen per cent (19,145) of solicitors are now from BAME backgrounds, according to the Law Society’s latest annual statistics report: 57 per cent of these solicitors are women, in contrast to 48 per cent of white solicitors who are women.

At partner level the proportion of BAME solicitors in 2016 was 22.9 per cent – a slight rise from the 22 per cent in 2015.

Meanwhile the gender diversity gap among partners remains: 40 per cent of male solicitors became partners compared to less than 20 per cent of women.

Now in its 30th year, the annual survey revealed that 136,176 solicitors have practising certificates (PC holders) while 175,160 individuals were on the roll on 31 July 2016 – a rise of nearly one-third in the last decade.

The proportion of solicitors working in-house increased by 0.4 per cent between 2015 and 2016, up from 21.6 per cent to 22 per cent. The number of in-house solicitors has risen by 2.5 per cent from 26,242 to 26,894.

The number of trainee registrations in the year to 31 July 2016 was 5 per cent higher than in the previous 12-month period.

In 2015/16, 62 per cent of roll admissions were female, up from 53 per cent 15 years ago. Women under the age of 35 made up almost one-fifth of all PC holders.

Almost three-fifths (59 per cent) of law firms’ total revenue was from business-to-business work while alternative business structures (ABSs) continued to grow. In 2016 there were 485 ABSs – 126 more than a year earlier – with the majority set up as limited company structures (68 per cent).

ABSs contributed £2.2bn to the legal market, according to 2014/15 turnover figures – 11.7 per cent of total market turnover. They made up 5 per cent of all firms that were the main practising address of at least one PC holder in 2016 (9,430).

The president of the Law Society, Robert Bourns, commented: ‘Increasing diversity in the solicitor profession is a powerful force for good and a cause for real celebration. Not only do solicitors themselves come from an ever-widening pool – reflecting the diverse society of which we are part and which we serve – but new business models are flourishing, allowing us to provide an ever more tailored service to our clients.

‘Firms with good diversity, inclusion and social mobility policies have 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.’

Matthew Rogers is a legal reporter at Solicitors Journal

matthew.rogers@solicitorsjournal.co.uk | @lex_progress

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