Solicitor numbers rocket by 20% in face of tough economic climate

By on

When will the bubble burst? There are 190% more practising today than 30 years ago


Despite the worst economic crash for generations and the creeping use of legal process outsourcing, the UK’s biggest legal profession continued to grow like Topsy over the last decade.

Figures released earlier this week from the Law Society of England and Wales showed that the number of solicitors at law firms in the jurisdiction leapt by slightly more than 20% between 2004 and 2014.

In the boom mid-2000s — before bankers laid waste to the global economy — there were 75,709 solicitors in private practice; by last year, that figure had soared to 90,306.

And the increase over the last generation-plus has been even more dramatic, with the number of law firm solicitors rocketing by 133% since 1983, when there were just 38,674 in private practice.

The overall number of solicitors in practice — including those working in-house at corporations, central and local government — has also increased even more significantly.

That figure has risen by 35% since 2004 to 130,382 — and by 190% since 1984, when there was a mere 44,837 in practice.

Just how long that rate of increase can continue will be a subject of considerable geek debate, not least against a backdrop of falling training contract numbers at City law firms and the increased use of non-qualified paralegals for commoditised work at both commercial and high street practices.

Larger firm pull

Law Society researchers point out that in 2013 a statistical blip showed the number of practising solicitors slightly decreasing. But they blamed that drop on delays in processing practising certificate data that year — a thinly-veiled jibe at the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the body responsible for that role.

The society’s annual statistical report also illustrated the continuing consolidation of solicitors into larger law firms. The report’s authors point out that 15 years ago, 17% of private practice solicitors worked at larger law firms, defined as those of 81-plus partners. Today that figure is 28%.

But partnerships of all sizes appear to tightening their grip on law firm equity. The report shows that in 2004 nearly 37.5% of private practice solicitors were partners, today that figure has dropped below 33%.

There are currently 24% more men than women partners across the solicitors’ profession England and Wales, but the latter are gradually narrowing the gap. Ten years ago men had a 26.7% lead at partnership tables.



This issue only illustrates the basest negativity of certain education providers (*cough* BPP *cough* ULaw et al), who consciously carry on flogging the supposed career potential of their ‘cheaper’ LLB degrees and GDLs and LPCs and BPTCs, whilst the reality is completely different and the Pupillage/TC numbers continue to tank.

Unfortunately, I’m convinced this shyster behaviour will simply carry on going as long as the Lygos and Savages carry on running their ‘universities’ like profit-driven businesses and no regulator will have the balls to step in and finally put a stop to these choppers.


I p freely

its a bit warped to look at growth between 2004 and 2014 with out breaking up with numbers for before and after 2008. surely a significant portion of that increase, if not more, came pre-2008. a problem partly caused by the cowboy lpc providers that Hitchens reffed too and partly due to the bonkers bubble that occured.
since 2008 there has there not been a decline? that is how the legal media would lead you to believe.
either way, with the lovely negative media, we are damned if we do and we are damned if we dont. in other words, if numbers decline we are up a creek and paddleless. oh and the end is nigh. if numbers increase, we might as well apply for dignitas vouchers. which is it? a shame sensationalism wins over substance but sadly that is the world we live in.
rant ovee. so can we have a proper breakdown of those figures or should we fulfill or lawyerly duty and go to source?


Comments are closed.