Nearly two-thirds of new solicitors are women as gender gap widens

Women: Growth in numbers not reflected at partner level

The female majority of solicitors, first established in 2017, is set to continue growing, with women now making up almost two-thirds of newly qualifieds.

The latest Law Society annual statistical report also showed that more than 40% of all solicitors now practise in Greater London.

The figures, for the year to 31 July 2020, showed that the total number of practising solicitors increased by 2% to 149,891, with a total of 202,374 solicitors on the roll.

The growth in the size of the profession is slowing, however. Back in 1990, there were 54,734 solicitors with practising certificates. This increased by 51% over the decade, then 42% in the 2000s, but only 27% in the 2010s. Most of the growth in the past 10 years was in solicitors working outside of private practice.

Women accounted for just over 52% of practising solicitors, with the gender gap was much bigger at student and entry level. Women made up two-thirds of law graduates and 64% of newly qualified solicitors.

The median age of male solicitors was 45, compared to 39 for women.

While this might in part by why there is still a huge gap at partner level – nearly 40% of male solicitors in private practice were partners, compared to 18% of women – it surely does not explain all of it.

In 2010, 37% of solicitors worked in Greater London; that figure increased to 41% a decade later. The South-West was the only other region to increase its share of solicitors.

Eastern England not only saw a reduction in the proportion of solicitors working there, from 6.2% to 4.8%, but a contraction in the actual number too, from 7,330 to 7,156.

The long-term decline in the number of law firms in England and Wales continued, from 9,339 to 9,019, and the number of offices from 12,399 to 12,042.

Although the proportion of law firms which are sole practices was over 43%, this was down from the previous year. The share of PC holders working in-house continued its steady increase by 1% to 24%.

The proportion of practising certificate holders from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds dropped to 13.7% by July 2020. However, researchers said this was “likely due to an increase of non-reporting of ethnicity, with a record of over 33,500 unknown ethnic origins (nearly 5,000 more from the year before)”.

Most newly admitted solicitors do not provide their ethnic origin. “Unless this data is collected through other means, the ability to monitor diversity trends based on individuals’ ethnicity will be further impacted.”

Some 25% of BAME solicitors were partners, compared to 36% of White solicitors.

The influence of the pandemic was seen in an 11% fall in trainee registrations. The City of London was home to a third of all trainees.

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