Law firms ‘won’t have gender equality until 2037’

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Sep 29, 2017
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Some 72 per cent of practising solicitors are white European

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Women will not reach parity with men at the upper echelons of law firm partnerships for another two decades, a report predicts. 

It is anticipated that on current trends, there will be close to parity between men and women senior partner numbers by 2037 — despite a majority of entrants to the profession today being female.

While official figures show that 47 per cent of all solicitors are women, that figure is forecast to rise to more than 70 per cent by 2037, according to statistical modelling projections.

Researchers also claimed that the law firm of the medium-term future will be more ethnically diverse. The percentage of practising solicitors who are white European will fall to 72 per cent from the current 84 per cent. The proportions of Asians will almost double to 16 per cent, Afro-Caribbean background solicitors will rise to 4 per cent and those with Chinese ethnicity to 3 per cent.

“Although there is some way to go, and the picture at senior level is less promising, law firms have made huge strides over the past 10 years,” Jo-Anne Pugh, a director at BPP University Law School and the author of the report, said.

Pugh argued that there were commercial benefits to law firms who adopted diversity programmes. “Most large organisations have made big strides to increase the diversity of their workforce. They expect their law firms to follow suit and to better reflect society as a whole,” she said.

Pugh added that there was a mismatch between student aspirations and the attitudes and qualities law firm employers were demanding. “Too many youngsters derive their perception of the law from popular legal dramas like Suits,” she said.

“They don’t understand that law firms will want recruits who can add value in very different ways and don’t just want the Harvey Specter rainmakers and deal brokers who have been traditionally fêted.

“Law firms want lawyers who are technologically savvy, who are nimble and comfortable with change, and who can make decisions without necessarily having all the information at their fingertips. They don’t want lawyers who have an initiative deficit and who aren’t able to cope with setbacks because all they’ve ever known are A grades and continuous success.”

The BPP report was based on an analysis of more than 25 years of Law Society data.

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