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.
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.