Seven out of 10 solicitors contacting the Solicitor’s Charity for the first time for help last year were female, it has emerged.
Although the charity helped more than 50% more new clients last year, the total amount paid out shrank slightly from £1.02m to £962,200, according to its annual report on grants.
The figure for 2022 takes the Solicitor’s Charity, the operating name of the Solicitors Benevolent Association, close to where it was in 2019, when grants totalling £943,300 were made, before the pandemic pushed this up to £1.3m in 2020.
The 2022 total also includes a 20% increase in daily living allowances to take into account the cost-of-living crisis and one-off payments to all primary clients to help with fuel bills.
Last year’s gender breakdown for new clients represents a complete reversal of the situation in 2021, when, for the first time in five years, more of them were male than female.
Nearly four in ten (39%) new clients were ethnic minority solicitors, compared to 54% the year before. Black solicitors outnumbered Asian solicitors both as new clients and all clients.
The vast majority of awards, over 86%, went direct to primary clients, with the rest of the money spent on indirect awards to partner organisations.
The Solicitor’s Charity funded LawCare to support 276 clients with mental health wellbeing support, debt counselling service Advice Works to support 21 clients with money management advice and Citizens Advice Manchester to help a further 19 with welfare benefits or debt advice.
Other organisations provided mental health assessments, with the possibility of therapy, for eight solicitors and career transition counselling for seven more.
New clients tended to be younger than existing ones, with solicitors aged 30 or under making up 11% of them, as opposed to only 4% of all clients.
At the other end of the age spectrum, 8% of new clients were aged 71 or over, compared with 14% of all clients. The majority of new clients were aged 50 or under, with nearly half being aged between 31 and 50.
As in previous years, the majority of solicitors receiving support had mental or physical health problems.
Around a quarter (27%) said they had no health problems, but 12% had a chronic or serious health condition, 27% had mental health issues, while 39% had “multiple heath conditions and/or disabilities”.
Half of primary clients worked for small firms or were sole practitioners, but one in seven new clients worked for large firms, up from one in 10 the year before.
Almost half of solicitors supported by the charity (45%) had less than 10 years of post-qualification experience.
Nick Gallagher, chief executive of the Solicitors’ Charity, said this year’s report had “shone a spotlight on the positive impact we have made in 2022 to an increased number of legal professionals needing support in times of hardship”.
He said the charity was “proud to have awarded a total of £962,229 to those solicitors facing financial and personal difficulties, particularly during the UK’s cost-of-living economic downturn”.