Legal Cheek

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

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.