Solicitors more diverse than society, profession-wide survey shows

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3 June 2014


SRA: survey based on data from 86% of law firms

Solicitors in law firms are slightly more diverse than the rest of society, the results of the profession-wide diversity monitoring undertaken by the Solicitors Regulation Authority have shown.

A total of 12.9% of partners, solicitors and staff are from ethnic minority backgrounds, compared to 12.4% of the UK workforce as a whole.

The SRA secured the co-operation of 86% of law firms in reporting data for the survey, which followed a request from the Legal Services Board. However, the deadline for responses had to be extended from the end of January this year to 25 February and, within firms, only 79% of staff took part.

The regulator said 1,000 firms which did not report any diversity data had been reported to its supervision department, and “appropriate action” would be taken.

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In all, 9,383 law firms, employing over 200,000 people, provided responses for the survey. Compliance was highest at firms with less than six partners, 89%, compared to the 77% of firms with more than 25 partners which submitted responses.

Women made up 31% of partners or equivalent, 59% of lawyers and 77% of staff. People with a disability made up 3% across the board.

The survey showed that the majority of those at partner level, 60%, described themselves as Christian, with a quarter saying they had no religious belief or were atheists. A further 10% were split equally between partners who were Jewish or Muslim.

Religious belief of all kinds was less prevalent among qualified and non-qualified other staff, where more than 30% said they had no religious belief.

Twice as many legal staff (2%) were gay men compared to partners, and while lesbians made up 1% of partners and solicitors.

Turning to education, 31% of partners went to a private school, 24% of lawyers and 9% of staff. More than half the staff at law firms, 53%, did not go to university, compared to only 5% of partners and 7% of lawyers.

A small but significant minority of partners (5%) were aged 65 or over, while 7% were 34 or under. More than half, 52%, of solicitors and other lawyers were 34 or under and 14% of staff aged 16-24.

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