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Nicola Laver

Editor, Solicitors Journal

SRA figures confirm elitism in the profession

SRA figures confirm elitism in the profession


The number of solicitors who went to fee-paying schools is treble the national average, the regulator revealed.

Figures also revealed that those with a parent who worked in a traditional profession, such as accountancy or law, were almost twice as likely to get into the legal profession than non-legal staff.

The data, published today by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), confirm the perception of many that the legal profession remains elitist.

The SRA drew its conclusions from information from 186,000 people working at 9,500 law firms across England and Wales, collected last August via an online survey. The majority of firms (96 per cent) completed the survey.

The data revealed that 21 per cent of solicitors (32 per cent at the larger firms) attended fee-paying schools; and at least half were the offspring of parents with a degree – almost double the number of non-legal staff in law firms.

In terms of gender equality, the SRA found that diversity in the legal sector is gradually improving though there is some way to go.

Almost half (49 per cent) of solicitors were women (a 1 per cent rise since 2017); while women now make up 60 per cent of the in-house solicitor population.

However, the data showed significant variations in terms of seniority and firm size, with just one third (34 per cent) of partners being female, though the gap is slowly narrowing.

The data also revealed that the proportion of black and minority ethnic (BAME) solicitors has grown to 15 per cent compared to 9 per cent five years ago; though only 5 per cent of solicitors in the bigger firms are BAME.

Black solicitors comprise 3 per cent of the workforce which is broadly in line with the general population.

SRA Chief Executive Paul Philip said a diverse and inclusive legal profession reflecting the wider community is good for the public and good for legal businesses.

“That is why”, he commented, “it is encouraging to see progress continuing across many areas, although there is clearly much more work to be done.”

Firms can benchmark how they compare to similar firms in the profession through the SRA’s online comparison tool.

The SRA is now collecting data about schooling, parental qualifications and parental occupation in line with government guidelines.

This, it said, is helping to build a better picture of social mobility in the profession.