White male solicitors THREE TIMES more likely to reach partnership at City firms than white females

By on

And six times more likely than BME females

New regulator-backed research has suggested that white male solicitors are three times more likely to land mega-paying partnership positions at top corporate firms than their female peers.

These findings, based on analyses of more than 194,000 solicitors who entered the profession between 1970 and 2016, reaffirm the position that “large corporate” partnerships are still gender imbalanced. The report says:

“Large City law firms undertaking the highest paying legal work are dominated by white men, who are likely to have attended fee- paying schools and have a family background of attending university. Women are less likely to work in senior roles in large City law firms and other high-income areas of the profession.”

Black and minority ethnic (BME) female lawyers experience a “double disadvantage” and fare even worse in the partnership stakes, according to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). The data reveals white male solicitors are six times more likely to secure partnership at top firms compared to BME females.

Despite these clear career progression barriers, the findings do show that the number of female and BME solicitors entering the profession has risen significantly. Roughly 60% of solicitors admitted to the roll in 2016 were female, compared to around 10% in 1970. Moreover, the proportion of BME solicitors was up from 0.25% to 16% over the past three decades.

Despite the encouraging influx in female and BME solicitors at the junior end, it would appear more still needs to be done to replicate this at the top. This is something the SRA’s chief executive, Paul Philip, acknowledges:

“This independent research shows that although progress has been made, the sector still has some way to go. This is 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.”

Last year, Legal Cheek reported on findings that suggested a whopping 62% of female lawyers felt their gender had hindered their ascent to the top positions within the legal profession. In contrast, just 16% of men felt that their gender had acted as a barrier.

For all the latest commercial awareness info, and advance notification of Legal Cheek's careers events:

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Hub



Maybe they work three times as hard.



And typically don’t put careers on hold to raise a family.



all the money goes on their avaricious trophy wives anyway



That is ultimately a cost. In any event, white male solicitors are four times more likely to pay for the drinks at the bar, or that fancy dinner.



That’s some male privilege u can take 2 the bank

Libeturd Leftie

Even you don’t believe that one…



Who cares about gender balance? Give the best people partnership based on merit and loyalty to the firm, not because they have a vagina.



That’s the issue. A significant gender imbalance is evidence better candidates are not always getting the jobs.






You need a source for that? Assuming women and men are on average equally talented, a significant gender imbalance would suggest an inefficient allocation of resources.


Rabbi Herschel Lieberman

What is your source for assuming that women and men are on average equally talented?


You are an outlier in this respect.


this is getting pretty sourcey

Pale stale male

I’m happy to make that assumption, but that still leaves a yawning chasm in your logic: “talent” is hardly the sole criterion for advancement in the law or any profession. We all know people who are “talented” but who lack the other attributes necessary for success.

There is a significant gender imbalance in the prison population – according to your “logic” that means the criminal justice system discriminates against men. Or maybe it just might have something to do with offending rates and the relative seriousness of offences committed by men and women? Likewise, the dominance of men in the upper echelons of the legal profession reflects the legal services market’s obsession with presenteeism and law firms’ obsession with billable hours. Friends in law firms tell me it is no longer possible to become partner in a major firm on “talent” alone, there has to be a “business case”, which is essentially an evaluation of the candidate’s willingness to enslave themselves for the firm.

A more honest rewrite of the first paragraph quoted from the report would be:

“Large City law firms undertaking the highest paying legal work are dominated by lawyers who come from a background that places a premium on deferred gratification and instils a strong work ethic and sense of career ambition”.

Not Amused

I keep telling you that we need to change our views on child care and you keep ignoring me and telling me:

1. that the family division is a bastion of noble intellect; and,
2. that believing only women can/should care for children is definitely not misogyny

Anyway … until we do something about childcare, expect endless stories like this where we look at the end point of a very complicated pipeline and just imply discrimination – because who needs evidence?



I agree that childcare and employers’ attitudes toward it require serious re-thinking in this country. However, I don’t think we can assume that the gender imbalance is down to this issue alone. It doesn’t explain the difference between outcomes for white women and BME women for example.


Not Amused

I didn’t mention employers.

The problem is more often the social views of the couples themselves and the pressure from wider society.

However I would again decry your attempt to identify discrimination by way of implication. It just is not right to look at an extremely complex issue (anything involving humans), take a crude survey and then conclude there is discrimination based upon an identifiable inequality. The shortage of women, and of BME women, refuse collectors and imprisoned murderers is not a result of discrimination – yet by your standards both would be.


Dr Patel

Not Amused, you keep on saying men and women are equally good at childcare and equally find it rewarding.

This is complete rubbish.

If you check the data it shows that stay at home dads have a much reduced life expectancy than those who work. There is no comparable divergence for working and stay at home mums.

Men are just not wired to look after children. Women are. As long as humans are humans this will remain so.


Not Amused

I have seen trolls before you know.


I didn’t mention discrimination, so I’m not sure why you bring this up. I agree that demographic imbalances in the professions are complex, and I certainly wouldn’t put it down to discrimination alone (and anyway ‘discrimination’ is a vague term could cover a lot of different things). My point is that when you are presented with a set of statistics like the one described in the article, I think it’s a mistake to seize upon differences in attitudes to childcare by men and women as some kind of master explanation. For one thing, this cannot be the explanation for differences in outcomes for people of different races. And it’s not clear that it is the major or only explanation for differences in outcome for men and women of the same race. That was my point.



He can legitimately point to childcare responsibilities as a cause of imbalance as that data was also collected in the diversity statistics*. It shows that of senior members of a law firm (which is broadly defined but people who you would expect to be of an age to have children) you find 7,957 who have primary care responsibilities for a child under 16 against 14,526 with no such responsibilities. It is entirely fair to suggest that, based on this data, having primary responsibility for a child will hinder career progression.

You also mention “differences in outcomes for people of different races”. I know the article implies that that is the case but looking at the data this is just not true. Indeed, as one of their key points the SRA notes that when considering ethnicity: “there is very little difference by seniority when we look at all firms – 18% BAME solicitors/other lawyers and 17% BAME partners”. It would be fair to point out that considering 18% of solicitors are BAME why are they nowhere near represented, at all levels, in City firms? I would argue this comes down to there not being 18% of BAME students at the universities City firms typically recruit from etc. (i.e. wider social question than discrimination by City firms).



As far as I know, the assumption that differences in outcome for people of different genders are due to primary care responsibilities is un-evidenced. It’s seized upon because it seems intuitively correct to people. I think it’s important to do some evidence-based investigation of why these differences occur rather than relying on assumptions like this. I am personally sceptical about whether primary care responsibilities have as great an effect as is assumed.


The differences in outcome for people of different genders being due* to primary care responsibilities is not un-evidenced.

I suggest reading some work by Claudia Goldin and Anne-Marie Slaughter. Goldin has done an excellent freakonomics podcast on gender economics which is extremely digestible and explains that value that employers place on 24/7 availability (something primary care givers can’t offer).

To quote Slaughter on gender pay inequality: “If you take women who don’t have caregiving obligations, they’re almost equal with men. It’s somewhere in the 95 percent range.”

*by due I mean a major contributing factor rather than sole cause.


An article written by a white middle class journo is a team comprised of the same background.

Stones and glass houses.



Tom is clearly trying to get into Katie’s good books.



After that trip to the office from his parents, certainly makes sense!


Frustrated Writer

Tom stood nervously next to Katie’s desk as she read the article. “So, do you like it?” he asked, expectantly.

Katie raised her hand, signalling for him to shut up, not looking up from the page Tom had printed. Tom was surprised that she had agreed to read it over for him, but he was also trying his best to get back into her good graces, and had badgered he so much she had no choice.

A few moments later Katie looked up and spoke. “Why have you written this, Thomas?” she asked, coldly.

“Erm, well, it’s on diversity. It’s mega important”. He tried his best to look earnest. “Thought I would try to help you take the battle to the patriarchy, and all that!”

Katie snorted sarcastically. “Whatever Thomas. You don’t care. Even if I believed you do, there is so many errors in this article I wouldn’t know where to start”. Tom saw the beast was awakening inside her. “And frankly, I don’t have time to help you. I’m busy. Don’t you realise Amal just hosted the Halloween party of the century? I’ve got so many costumes to review and pretend they relate to the law.”

Tom’s heart sank. “Really, what mistakes? Where? I checked it twice!” He sounded a little desperate, despite his wishes.

Katie rolled her eyes. “I don’t have time for this. They’re so fundamental. Firstly, you’re a man. You’re not entitled to discuss this” she prodded her finger onto the piece of paper in front of her, angrily. “Secondly, Thomas, your article is not severe enough. You should be calling for the prosecution of the head of the SRA for not banning men from the profession altogether”. She stood up, the printed article in hand, standing close enough for Tom to feel the warmth of her breath. “You tell me, you horrible man, how we can get equality with all you men around, huh?”

Tom gulped loudly, not knowing what to do next. His body tensed up as it went into fight or flight mode.

Katie raised the paper with the draft article on it and lifted it in front of Tom’s face, causing him to flinch. Dramatically, she tore it into pieces, not stopping until it resembled a pile of cheap confetti. Dropping the pieces to the floor, Katie returned to her seat. “You don’t get to write diversity articles Thomas. You are a man. You don’t suffer like me”. She aggressively placed her earphones in her ears and turned away from Tom.

Tom paused, deciding, wisely, to suppress his urge to point out that growing up privately educated in a 5 bedroom house in Richmond wasn’t suffering. Instead, crestfallen, he returned to his seat, hands shaking. At least she hadn’t taken it out on him physically this time.



Frustrated writer provides the best content by far on Legal Cheek. He’s the only one providing any actual Cheek, as opposed to the GCSE musings of Tom, KK and AA.


Agree when LC “journos” try to be funny it’s really cringey, Buzzfeed or ROF imitation stuff. When they try to write news stories it’s either sycophantic Amal Clooney stuff or just boring, earnest pieces and lacking any intelligent analysis. Frustrated writer is a better writer.


When Tom tries to make a joke, it’s about as funny as a cardiac arrest


Tumbleweed Tom


Excellent, a further instalment was the best response I could have hoped for here!


” I’ve got so many costumes to review and pretend they relate to the law.”

^^^ Literally crying here ^^^ – enjoyed the Richmond point too.

Please keep these going.

Could we get another request? Maybe something involving Baroness Hale of Richmond (aka Lady Hale) living close to this 5 bedroom property in Richmond and bumping into Katie’s parents?



That would be good

Great idea


Ha ha ha. Loving your work Frustrated writer. Please do a book for Christmas compiling all the stories.


Gold. Solid gold.

Frustrated Writer, keep doing what you’re doing. It’s the only reason to read LegalCheek





Part of the data taken from 1970? At least we know it’s up to date then..



It’s comparing 1970 to 2016 to show how things have or haven’t changed…comparing 2000 – 2016 hardly gonna show much eh



I think it depends how they used the data – The average number of females making it to partner in 1970 is undoubtedly lower than in 2016. If the average was taken as a whole then the 1970/1980/1990 etc numbers will obviously pull that average down and skew the true data downwards.
I think a better test to do would be to compare each era – say 1970-1980 and 2006-2016 when gender inequality has been better addressed.

Happy to be told I am wrong though!



Are we not supposed to notice that the men in the image are not actually solicitors, but politicians? Ronald Raygun on the left and George Bush snr second right.

Is that just a dig at politicians too?



It’s because Tom is too lazy to find a new image, so he trots out the same one for every diversity “article”



The comment section is a perfect microcosm illustrating the problem discussed. Thanks for largely proving the author’s point. I can’t wait to start working with sexists like the ones gracing us here, to embarrass them and show them up every time I can



Assuming that you are female? Then you probably won’t be showing anyone up..



Milk and two sugars luv



They don’t tend to take years off to have children.



Good!! Keep it like that



The legal profession is one of those ‘safe spaces,’ albeit for posh white male privilege.

The comments section buzzes with pantomime righteous-indignation at pieces like this, because they threaten this ‘safe space.’

Once again, it is obvious that quotas and positive discrimination are urgently required to correct this persistent problem of the under-representation of women, black people disabled people and other overlooked people in the profession.

Good on you, Tom, don’t be dissuaded by the sexist snapping and snarling, your empathy is a credit to you and the [profession.



Nice easy target aren’t they? Posh white people that is.

Good one to raise your rattle at when you’re upset that you and your like-minded loser friends never made it. The problem isn’t some huge conspiracy keeping you down, it is the fact that you are simply not good enough.

Now stop blaming others, keep your racism to yourself and pull your ruddy socks up.



Yeah, the psychological projection is so soothing to the safe space privilege gate-keepers, as they keep their sexism, racism and disablism on the simmer.



Current statistics on the racial makeup of an old generation of people in senior positions (who worked towards those positions in different social circumstances many years ago) doesn’t equate to an assessment liklihood of the next generation having the same makeup.



A posh girl from London is, however, probably several thousand times more likely to reach partnership at a City firm than a working-class lad from the North.


Comments are closed.

Related Stories