It is imperative to focus on inclusion to foster diversity so that the differences among us lead to more effective and innovative organisations. Diversity transcends gender, ethnicity and all other dimensions that make us unique. But law is an industry that is considered to be the least diverse. Recently, barrister Stephanie Wickenden raised questions about gender & diversity at the Bar, but over the past few years there has been an exponential rise in the number of diverse lawyers making this profession more representative of the society.
The SRA commissioned an independent quantitative research on solicitors and the statistical analysis of the data from 1970-2016 revealed the following:
- In relation to the admission into the legal profession, there has been a large number of women entering the legal profession i.e. from 10% in 1970 to 60% in 2016. New admission by BAME solicitors has also increased by 10%. In 2016 Asian solicitors accounted for 19% of all new entrants.
- In relation to career progression, partnership remains male-dominated across all ethnic groups. Estimates figures shows that women account for 34% and men account for 66% of partners. The prospects for becoming partners are higher for white men (75%) as compared to BAME women (13%). High street firms provide the greatest opportunities for BAME lawyers to become partners.
- There’s an increase in the number of solicitors leaving private practice to work in-house. The environment of in-house has become more conducive and diverse in comparison to private practice.
Diversity at the bar has improved to a great extent. Data collected at the BSB in 2019 revealed the following:
- As of December 2019, the percentage of women constitute 38% of the Bar in comparison to an estimate of 50.2% of the UK working population.
- The proportions of female QC’s have increased from 15.8% in December 2018 to 16.2% in December 2019. However, there is still a disparity between the proportion of female barristers and the proportion of female QCs. The difference has slightly widened from 16.2% in 2018 to 38.0% in 2019.
- There has been an increase in BAME barristers at the Bar, which has increased to 13.6% in December 2018.
- The overall estimates suggest that a disparity exists between the overall percentage of BAME barristers across the profession (13.6%) and the percentage of BAME QCs (8.1%).
- There is an underrepresentation of disabled practitioners at the Bar. Only 6% of barristers disclosed a disability which is substantially lower than the percentage of disabled people in the UK’s working population (approx. 13.4%).