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Women solicitors now in majority south of the border

19 June 2018

Women solicitors practising south of the border now outnumber men, the Law Society of England & Wales has confirmed in its Annual Statistics report for 2017, covering the year to 31 July 2017. 

It reveals that at that date women constituted 50.1% of the 139,624 practising certificate holders – 69,995 as against 69,629 men – and 48% of the 93,155 solicitors working in private practice.

Women made up 61.6% of new admissions in 2016-17, and the average age of a woman practising certificate holder is 40 years, compared with 45 for a man.

That only partly accounts for a big gap in the other direction at partnership level – some 41% of men were partners, but only 18% of women.

Ireland in 2014, and Scotland in 2015, have already seen women overtake men by number of practising solicitors.

The LSEW data also record that 16.5% of practising certificate holders with known ethnicity are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups – but that ethnicity was unknown for 69% of new admissions to the profession. The Society says this follows a move to online self-provision of ethnicity by new solicitors through the Solicitors Regulation Authority website, but impacts on its ability to monitor diversity within the profession.

Overall the profession is still growing, by 2.5% between 2016 and 2017, and by 29% in the decade to 2017.

LSEW President Joe Egan commented: "With more women than men and a steadily growing proportion of solicitors from a BAME background, it is more important than ever the profession recognises and rewards talent equally.

"Every step towards greater equality will benefit businesses, clients and solicitors alike. We are keen to support our members in adopting and shaping best practice so that law firms comply not just with the letter but also with the spirit of the law. Our diversity charter, diversity access scheme, social mobility ambassadors and our fair recruitment toolkit are just some examples of our work to help people succeed in the sector regardless of background.

"An important foundation is transparency, and this includes gender pay gap reporting. The Law Society supports the inclusion of partner pay alongside employee pay data in gender pay gap reporting as an important step towards greater equality. This will give firms a useful benchmark and enable an evidence-based action plan to tackle inequalities."

  • Also from the report, there are now 600 alternative business structures (ABSs) in England & Wales, making up 6.3% of all legal firms. The number rose by 125 in the year to July 2017, after increases of 116 and 102 firms over the previous two years. 

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