Mixed Message emerges from SRA diversity report
By Monidipa Fouzder >> The biggest diversity survey of the solicitor profession ever charts modest progress on gender and race – but the privately educated remain vastly over-represented in the top ranks of the biggest firms.
The Solicitor’s Regulation Authority’s third diversity survey surveyed 170,000 people at 9,000 law firms in England and Wales.
More than half of the profession (53%) is now made up of individuals who are the first generation from their family to attend university – rising to 60% at partner level.
Some 22% of lawyers are privately educated, compared with 7% of the population as a whole, a proportion of that rises to 37% among partners in large firms.
Women now make up nearly half of all solicitors (47%), and as the [Law Society] Gazette reported last month are expected to comprise a majority by the end of 2017.
However, the promising picture on gender diversity is marred by the fact that only a third of partners are women, with even fewer (27%) ascending to the upper rungs of the career ladder in large firms.
Black and minority ethnic (BAME) solicitors make up nearly a fifth of the profession. However there is an ‘under-represenation’ of black lawyers (2%) compared to their share of ‘economically active’ people in the population (3%). Asians are over-represented, at 12% of the total, compared to the wider population (7%).
The SRA announced last week that the survey would now take place every two years rather than annually. This ‘recognises that collecting this data imposes a burden on firms, particularly sole practitioners,’ it said.
At a ‘top table event’ organised by the Sole Practitioners’ Group in Hertfordshire, solicitors told Jane Malcolm, SRA executive director of external affairs, that reminders to submit diversity data ‘threatening’ and ‘distasteful’.