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Suzanne Townley

News Editor, Solicitors Journal

Solicitors on the roll: numbers reach record high

Solicitors on the roll: numbers reach record high


Women now make up 53 per cent of practising solicitors

The number of solicitors on the roll reached an all-time high in 2021, the Law Society’s annual statistics report (ASR) has revealed.

Key findings included:

  • In the twelve months to 31 July 2021, the number of solicitors with practising certificates reached 153,282 – an increase of 2 per cent compared to the previous year.
  • A record number has also been reported for solicitors on the roll reaching 209,215 – an increase of 3 per cent from the year before.
  • The number of women practising certificate holders increased three times faster than the number of men; women now make up 53 per cent of practising solicitors. 
  • Representation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds continued to grow, and reached 18 per cent of those with known ethnicity.
  • The proportion of solicitors working in-house grew to 25 per cent, a steady average increase of 1 per cent each year.
  • The number of students graduating with first degrees in law from universities in England and Wales was the highest on record at 18,927. Over eight in ten (81 per cent) of these graduates achieved a first or upper-second class degree.
  • The median age for both men and women practising certificate holders grew by one year, making the median ages 46 and 40 respectively as of 2021.
  • The number of firms within England and Wales has steadily decreased over the past five years, reaching 9,020 as of 2021.
  • A third of firm head office closures came from mergers and change of legal entity status.

Commenting on the report, Law Society president, I. Stephanie Boyce, said: “This report has been compiled for over 30 years and provides a comprehensive picture of how the solicitors’ profession has evolved over the long-run in terms of size and structure. It provides an authoritative record of the number of solicitors and the type of organisations in which they work".

Boyce said, as an in-house lawyer herself, she was encouraged to see solicitors employed in-house, ranging from FTSE and private companies to local authorities, now make up a quarter of the profession.

She added: “It is also encouraging to see the number of women working in the profession and people from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic background.

“There is, however, more work to be done in increasing representation of those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic, and low socio-economic backgrounds, as well as increasing the number of women in the higher echelons of the profession.

“The decline in the number of firms also highlights the need for widespread investment in our justice system including legal aid rates to ensure lawyers are there when needed.”