White male solicitors are six times more likely to reach the top of their law firms as their female ethnic minority counterparts, it emerged yesterday in a blow to the profession’s efforts to become more diverse.
A study released by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) also found that only a third of partners at solicitors’ firms in England and Wales are female. White males are over three times more likely to become a partner in large corporate firms than white females and six times more likely than ethnic minority women.
The SRA said that “the best opportunities for females of all ethnicities to become a partner were in a small firm”. That was also the case for ethnic minority men.
Overall, researchers found that the proportion of women and those from ethnic minority backgrounds entering the profession had risen significantly. About 10 per cent of entrants were female in 1970 compared with 60 per cent in 2016. About 50 per cent of all solicitors are now female.
There has also been a large increase in the proportion of ethnic minority solicitors over the last three decades: up from 0.25 per cent in 1982 to 16 per cent now.
Paul Philip, the SRA chief executive, said the independent research showed that “although progress has been made, the sector still has some way to go”.
He added that gender and ethnic diversity in the legal profession were “not about ticking boxes. Diverse, inclusive law firms benefit everybody. They can attract and retain the best people, regardless of background. If firms reflect the communities they serve, it may also help improve access to legal services.”