But the number of lawyers with practising certificates has actually gone down
The number of solicitors on the roll has increased since the Brexit vote, but less of them have practising certificates.
As of last month (December 2016) there were 178,972 solicitors on the roll, compared with 175,181 around the time of the referendum. This equates to an increase of 3,791 or 2%.
However, in the same time period the number of solicitors who hold practising certificates has decreased. In July 2016, 136,211 solicitors were practising in England and Wales. By December, this figure had dipped by 902 (0.7%) to 135,309.
So, was there a post-referendum ‘throw your practising certificate in the bin’ dash, or can these figures otherwise be explained?
It’s certainly worth bearing in mind there’s often a slump in practising solicitor numbers nearer the end of the year, because October is when you have to pay your Law Society practising fee.
More positive results are thrown up when you take the figures year by year. From the beginning of 2016 to the end, there were 2,674 more practising solicitors (2%) and 6,592 more solicitors on the roll (4%).
This correlates with increasing training contract numbers. Trainee positions rose by 9% from 5,001 to 5,457 in a year according to the latest Law Society statistics. In his 2017 predictions piece, Legal Cheek’s Alex Aldridge said this boost could be partly put down to US law firms expanding en masse in London and a notable increase in in-house TCs.
Given the number of ‘robot lawyer’ scare stories being bandied about, it’s refreshing to see statistics showing law is a healthy, buoyant sector.
However, what the newest solicitor statistics — which come courtesy of the regulator (the SRA) — do not disclose is what these lawyers practise. While the growth of commercial law seems to be never ending, cuts to legal aid mean more social welfare-oriented areas are more tightly squeezed than ever before.
Read the full SRA statistics here.
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