SRA research shows profession has progressed on diversity but more to be done

The legal sector is increasingly diverse according to research published by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, with 18% of the profession from Black and Asian minority ethnic groups, and 47% of the profession being female.

However the SRA say they believe more work is to be done for the profession to truly reflect the population it represents, with those that identify as disabled under represented 3% compared with 10% of working age adults), and those attending fee paying schools over-represented.

The report also states that within that 18% of BAME professionals, Asian groups are over-represented at 12% (compared with 7% of the population) whilst Black groups are under-represented at 2% (3% of the population). BAME lawyers are also twice as likely to work at a smaller rather than larger firm.

When it comes to partners, the proportion of those who attended fee paying schools increases to 37%. Similarly, the number of female partners falls to 33% with female partners in larger firms falling again to 27%. Just 7% of the general population are privately educated.

Black partners make up 3% in smaller firms compared with 1% in larger firms. Asian partners make up 4% of partners in larger firms compared with 16% in smaller firms.

When it comes to social mobility however, 53% of the profession is made up of those who were the first in their family to attend university, which actually rises when looking at partners, to 60%.

Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: “Encouraging diversity in legal services is not about ticking boxes. It is of course the right thing to do, but it also helps to make sure the sector is as competitive as possible. There should not be any barriers stopping the best people – whatever their background – thriving in law.

“There is a real issue that many small business and individuals cannot or do not access legal services. That unmet need is bad news for justice and the health of the economy. A profession that reflects the society it serves can help deal with that problem.

“Ultimately the evidence shows that diversity in the workplace can benefit the bottom line – there is a ‘diversity dividend’. Some law firms are doing some really positive things to tackle the problem and change the culture, but this research shows that there is still some way to go.”

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