Practising women solicitors outnumber men for the first time last year, as reported by the Law Society in the Annual Statistics Report for 2017. The report indicates that as the legal profession continues to grow, it is gradually becoming more diverse.
The report illustrates that there are more than 139,600 practising solicitors, 29 per cent more than in 2007, and 46 per cent more than were practising in 1997.
The report demonstrates a nearly 4 per cent increase in the number of women qualifying as solicitors in 2017, taking it past the number of men in the legal profession. The Law Society has published that there were 69,995 women solicitors in England and Wales which is 366 more than the number of men practising law. The report illustrates a sudden rise in the number of women in the legal profession which was nearly 50 per cent higher in 2017 than a decade ago.
Despite the increasing number of practising female solicitors, women face a considerable gender pay gap and this year a number of prominent firms faced criticism for avoiding disclosing their gender pay gap data.
The report illustrates that in 2017 a record number of law students graduated with first-class honours and a record of 23,605 new students were accepted into first-degree law courses for the academic year 2017/2018.
There is also an increasing number of female trainees registering their training contract. The share of female trainees reached a record of 63.6%.
Going forward, the Law Society’s report demonstrates that the number of women practising law is likely to increase. In the 12 months to July 2017, women made up more than 60 per cent of the entrants to the profession.
Based on the current trend, it is expected that by 2022 there will be c. 10,000 more female practising solicitors than male.
The report indicates that the legal profession is becoming more diverse both in terms of gender and ethnicity, however there is still a way to go. More than 71 per cent of the profession in the jurisdiction is white, compared to 87 per cent of the population in the UK. South Asian ethnic background solicitors form the largest non-white group of legal professionals, being 8.2 per cent. African and African-Caribbean ethnic backgrounds solicitors make up 2.2 per cent of the profession. Solicitors of other ethnic origins make up c. 2.5 per cent.