Data published today reveals that while the overall legal sector is increasingly reflective of wider society, challenges remain in achieving true diversity at senior levels in some firms. Based on information from 180,000 people working at 9,000 law firms across England and Wales, our data shows that diversity in the sector continues to improve.
Nearly half of all solicitors are women (48%) and one in five (21%) are from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background. At a more senior level one third (33%) of partners are now women. While this figure falls to 29% for larger firms of 50 or more partners, this represents a 4% improvement on 2014 (25%).
Larger firms continue to have a lower proportion of BAME partners (8%) compared to more than a third (34%) of partners in sole practice coming from a BAME background.
Just 3% of solicitors describe themselves as disabled, which is significantly below the Government’s 10% estimate for the wider UK workforce. 3% identified as being lesbian, gay or bisexual, which compares to Stonewall’s estimate of 5-7% for the wider population.
The survey found that 57% of partners attended a state school (up from 47% from 2014), that the majority of partners (59%) were the first generation in their family to attend university and that a third of all solicitors have primary child caring responsibilities.
Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: “I know we will all welcome the progress that is clearly being made in many areas. But there is much more to do to achieve a truly diverse profession that reflects the community it serves, encourages people to access the legal services they need and offers opportunities for the brightest and best from every background.
“The changes we are making to the training of solicitors, the growing and varied initiatives in the sector to support people into the profession and the leadership shown by many firms will all help. Our new report on the benefits of diversity makes it clear that diversity is good for business and well as for the public, the profession and wider society. I think the report will help law firms to consider what more they can do to realise those business benefits, as well as doing the right thing.”