There are now more women practising as solicitors than men

The Law Society of England and Wales has revealed there are now more women practising as solicitors than men.

In a “historic shift”, out of 139,624 PC holders, 50.1% are women. Women also account for 48% of solicitors working in private practice.

What’s more, women made up 61.6% of new admissions in 2016/17. And, on average, female PC holders are younger than male PC holders (40 vs 45 years).

Commenting on the findings, Law Society president Joe Egan said: “With more women than men and a steadily growing proportion of solicitors from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background, it is more important than ever the profession recognises and rewards talent equally.

“Every step towards greater equality will benefit businesses, clients and solicitors alike. We are keen to support our members in adopting and shaping best practice so that law firms comply not just with the letter but also with the spirit of the law. Our diversity charter, diversity access scheme, social mobility ambassadors and our fair recruitment toolkit are just some examples of our work to help people succeed in the sector regardless of background.

“An important foundation is transparency, and this includes gender pay gap reporting. The Law Society supports the inclusion of partner pay alongside employee pay data in gender pay gap reporting as an important step towards greater equality. This will give firms a useful benchmark and enable an evidence-based action plan to tackle inequalities.”

However, while this is good news for a legal profession that is striving to increase in diversity, a lack of data on ethnicity makes it difficult to monitor how diverse the legal profession is. Indeed, ethnicity was unknown for 69% of new admissions.

Where ethnicity is known, 16.5% of practicing solicitors are from BAME groups, and Asian solicitors remain the best represented of BAME groups, making up 8.2% of all PC holders. Almost two-fifths of students accepted onto first degree law courses for 2017/18 are from BAME groups.

Commenting on the lack of data, Joe Egan added: “It is becoming increasingly difficult to get an accurate picture of ethnic diversity in the solicitor profession as the regulator (the Solicitors Regulation Authority) has moved to online provision of ethnicity by new solicitors, and many choose not to provide this information.

“As a consequence, it will grow increasingly difficult to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of diversity and inclusion approaches.

“As the professional body for solicitors, we want to see a sector that leads the way on promoting genuine equality across all workplaces. Transparency, monitoring and evaluation are essential components of any effective long-term strategy to achieve greater equality at all levels of the solicitor profession.”

You can access the Law Society findings here.

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