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‘More still needs to be done’ says regulator as latest stats reveal almost a QUARTER of lawyers attended fee paying schools

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This rises to 37% for partners in large law firms

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It is a case of “more still needs to be done” according to the solicitor’s regulator, as a comprehensive survey of over 9,000 law firms has revealed that almost a quarter of lawyers attended fee paying schools.

Releasing the result of its diversity survey this morning, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has confirmed — perhaps unsurprisingly — that a “disproportionate” number of lawyers were privately educated.

Despite only 7% of the general population attending a private school, the survey discovered that 22% of lawyers attended a fee paying school. And this figure rises to 37% at firms with fifty partners ore more. It would appear the more partners you have the more likely each one of them will have been privately educated.

In slightly more positive news, the survey showed that almost a half of lawyers (47%) were women. However this figure drops to just one third (33%) at partner level. Again perhaps unsurprisingly — given the latest round of disappointing female partner promotions — this percentage drops even further, to just 27%, when limited to large law firms with of over fifty partners.

It is also worth noting that more than half the profession (53%) is made up of individuals who are the first generation from their family to attend university. And this rises to 60% at partner level.

According to the stats, black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) lawyers accounted for 18% of the sector. Breaking this group down, the SRA stated there was an “under representation” of black lawyers within the legal profession (only 3%). However, in comparison, Asian lawyers are over-represented, comprising 12% of the legal profession, compared to 7% of the wider UK population.

Interestingly, according to the SRA, BAME lawyers are twice as likely to work for small firms — consisting of two to five partners — than one with fifty plus partners. The statistics also showed that BAME lawyers are less likely to become partners at large firms. Despite 3% of partners at small firms being black lawyers, this percentage drops to a worryingly low 1% in larger firms.

In the wake of the SRA’s third diversity survey — that received over 170,000 respondents from legal professionals, up by 10,000 on last year — Paul Philip, SRA chief executive, said:

Encouraging diversity in legal services is not about ticking boxes. It is of course the right thing to do, but it also helps to make sure the sector is as competitive as possible. There should not be any barriers stopping the best people — whatever their background — thriving in law.

39 Comments

Anonymous

The fact that a quarter of solicitors attended fee paying schools doesn’t demonstrate a problem within the legal profession – it shows that education within state schools needs to be improved. A quarter is certainly not disproportionate. It is logical that people with the best education will get the best jobs.

(28)(10)

Anonymous

I see your point, but the idea that 7% of the population isn’t over represented by getting 22% of the new positions is fanciful.

It’s not that these people are smarter or better qualified, it’s that they tend to have better connections and slightly better grades, so get work experience. As a result here CV ends up looking far better.

Perhaps the problem is that the legal profession isn’t encouraging more people from a poor background. Perhaps experience should be more widely available and pushed in state schools a lot more. None of that can be considered the fault of the state school system, so much as the legal world not particularly trying- at least not beyond token programs.

(11)(12)

Bumblebee

Happy to be corrected/educated on this matter, but I’m slightly perplexed as to why it’s such a big deal/surprise that only 33% of partners are female. For one, females are far more likely to have taken career/maternity breaks.

Am I missing something?

(15)(4)

Anonymous

Disagree. I attended a comprehensive school yet achieved all A*s at GCSE and As at A-level followed by a First in law at a top university. Yet it took me years to finally land a TC. I am only 1 of 2 trainees at my firm from a state school and the other trainees, whilst intelligent, are by no means “brilliant” despite their £20K plus a year education.

Yes people with the “best education” get the best jobs but the “best education” is NOT the same as the best educated. Law firms will always love the private school lot.

(9)(1)

Anonymous

Best education is not just about grades though. It is about the advice, guidance and support you get. Considering there are many factors that get you a TC beyond grades (how well you write, how you communicate, analytical skills, extra curricular activities, career motivation and understanding), it is pretty obvious that fee paying schools will be better placed to develop all these additional aspects of a good applicant much more than an under-funded and underachieving state school.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

Very true. I’ve done 3 city vacation schemes, been asked what school I went to by other students on the scheme.

What does it matter to them?

(2)(1)

Anonymous

Probably to make polite conversation? I do that all the time and I come from a state school…!

(2)(0)

Anonymous

I can see why you would ask that to someone that you’ve just met.

But why would you ask that on a vacation scheme, unless you’re from similar areas?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Again, to make polite conversation. People in England get so worked up when you asked what school they went to / what grades they got at uni. Are you ashamed?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

As a GDL student I am surprised it is only 22%. Few people on the course did not attend a fee paying school, and those who did generally went to a north london state school (which frankly may as well be). I believe I am the only one who went to school in a south london comprehensive at all.

While it is surprising to see so many where the first generation to go to university, I would be interested to look at there socioeconomic background as a whole. A friend on the course was the first person of his family to attend university, but his family owns a small chain of shops. He described living on £35k as almost impossible, which to someone who’s parents are cleaners was slightly shocking. It might be that people from this type of background are shifting those results?

The figures for women and BAME seem encouraging though, and do seem to fit with my personal experience. So at least there is a positive side to all this.

(6)(2)

Anonymous

Same for my GDL class. I think 2 out of 18 were state educated. That was a shock to me.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Doesn’t surprise me with the GDL at all, especially if the majority of your class are self-funded students. People from lower incomes are far less likely to want to put themselves in what proportionately will be much higher amounts of debt they can afford, compared to someone who has the (offshore) bank of Mum & Dad paying for their GDL course.

Plus significant numbers of GDLers are History, Politics and Languages students. The diversity of those students is awful compared to subjects like law, not just from a state school educated background but also for BME.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

A quarter hardly seems news-worthy or evidence that ‘more still needs to be done’.. That leaves 75% of partners from non fee-paying schools! I struggle to see the problem.

(8)(7)

Anonymous

7% get 22% of the jobs. You are more than three times more likely to get a solicitor position if you went to a fee paying school.

Perhaps they should have phrased the article that way.

(4)(4)

Anonymous

Another article repeating the lazy “7%” trope.
The figure for 16-18 year olds, which is what matters for University admissions, is around 14%. Furthermore, if you look at the distribution of “A” grades in A levels, far more than 7 or even 14% of “A” or “A*” grades are awarded to those attending private schools.
Never mind, the academic requirements for legal journalism are not as demanding as those for Big Law.

(8)(2)

Anonymous

Yes, They will have inflated grades, as their parents paid for them to get a better education, which consequently probably leads to better work experiences and better CV’s. Not to mention to confidence it instills in them.

That doesn’t mean that it is not an issue, or that the 7% figure is wrong- In fact your argument simply shows that there is a broader social issue. It will extending beyond the legal world, that does not mean it should be ignored in our context.

(2)(3)

Anonymous

Maybe they are just better applicants! Not everything is to do with stats. Private school students shouldn’t be shunned for a decision that their parents made for them.
Suck it up people

(5)(3)

Anonymous

I am suggesting they may be better applicants because they went to private schools and got better opportunities or inflated grades. Either way you slices it, they are overrepresented, it’s simply at who’s door you lay the blame.

(0)(0)

Scouser of Counsel

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

Bring back the grammars!

I went to one of the few left, and it was a real engine of social mobility, with kids who’s parents were on benefits ending up going on to really good universities.

My grammar school, on Merseyside, did not have a catchment area of wealthy postcodes and taught kids from across the spectrum, including the poor but bright, who were really allowed to shine.

Not fair, but fairer than reserving an elite eduction to only those with the ability to pay.

Just my 2d worth…

(19)(2)

Anonymous

Is 22% ‘almost a QUARTER’?

78% of lawyers state educated seems pretty decent to me.

(10)(5)

Anonymous

It’s 3% away

(1)(1)

Anonymous

The overwhelming majority of lawyers will be graduates from Russell Group universities, and so you need to look at the bottleneck for state school educated students which is at the university admission stage rather than the entry to the career stage. With universities like Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Bristol, Exeter and LSE admitting less than 70% state school educated students, these stats are actually fairly good.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

I would argue work experiences plays an important roll in addition to your point.

Shadowing your friends dad the barrister might well put you over top applying to a russell group university, or act as a box ticking exercise for later work experience or vac schemes. The lack of work experience available, particularly commercial experience, at state schools would undoubtedly effect state school pupils chances at both university and career entry stages.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Completely agree. Another point is that fee paying schools are also much better at instilling confidence in their students, telling them it is relatively easy for them to achieve this career route. A lot of state schools, or particular teachers/advisors within them, can actually do the opposite and often discourage students they think are “not good enough” (when they actually are).

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Quite agree. My state school year 5 teacher told me I would end up as a road sweeper.

I start my LPC next year……

(4)(0)

Boh Dear

Maths is clearly just voodoo to some people.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Love all the fragile posh people in the comments section

(5)(0)

Anonymous

The fragile posh people also tend to hold a spiteful hatred of the working class. They can dish it out but they sure can’t take it.

(2)(2)

Anonymous

Yet we are being victimised for taking the working classes fair share of jobs. Sounds like you’re the bitter ones

(0)(3)

Anonymous

hehehe come on Hugo, lighten up

(4)(0)

Lord Bundleton-Carruthers

“I AM JUST CLEVERER OK” – all rich people ever

(5)(1)

Anonymous

Jesus christ

(0)(1)

Anonymous

No one is saying they are more clever, it is just that they are likely to have been trained and advised better from an earlier age. Until more is done to level the playing field in state schools, this is unlikely to change.

(5)(1)

Not Amused

Given that the SRA (and other regulators) do sweet FA about improving the situation, isn’t it a bit rich for them to lecture the rest of us?

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Separating between state and publicly educated does not begin to give the full picture on social mobility.

How many lawyers who went to state schools are the children of well-off, middle-class families who couldn’t quite justify the fees of a private school? I’m willing to bet quite a fair few.

In my trainee intake (9 trainees) four were privately educated, but zero came from truly working class backgrounds.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

Quiet correct. There is a previous comment that addresses the first generation to enter university percentage. Apparently living off £35,000 would be impossible, yet he was the first to enter university apparently.

I feel the SRA should do the survey properly, or not at all. Not to many children of red bus drivers, as Mr Khan is so fond of calling himself, become lawyer.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

“More needs to be done” – like fixing the fact that it costs about 50k to convert to law (opportunity cost, living expenses, fees)

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Just do a qualifying law degree then

(3)(1)

Anonymous

You are far less likely to be a practitioner that way. It’s something like half of practitioners did the gdl- why should poorer people be put off from an exceptional good route into the profession?

(0)(0)

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