News

What does a lawyer look like?

By on
29

White, male and upper class, according to new research on public perceptions

An e-fit showing what the British public assume a legal professional looks like

Nearly half of us picture a lawyer to be white and a quarter expect them to be male, new research has found. Only a small proportion (6%) expect them to be from a working-class background.

These were some of the perceptions drawn out from a recent study of 2,000 UK respondents.

Forty-eight percent of Brits envision someone who works within the legal industry to be white, with just over one in ten (12%) saying they picture a person of a black or ethnic minority (BME) background.

Breaking down the data further, just over half (51%) of mixed/multiple ethnic groups said they think people working within the legal industry can be of any ethnicity, while only 37% of white people said the same.

The latest comments from across Legal Cheek

The research, conducted by agency TLF on behalf of The University of Law (ULaw), further revealed that just one in five (21%) asian and 35% of black people feel represented in the legal system, compared to an overwhelming 89% of white people.

Overall, only a quarter (25%) said they see themselves fully represented in the legal system, with one in ten (10%) saying they don’t feel represented at all. Using the findings, TLF has created an e-fit (pictured top) showing what the British public assume a legal professional looks like.

Commenting on the findings, Patrick Johnson, ULaw’s director of equality, diversity and inclusion, said:

“This research has highlighted a stark reality, which is that more needs to be done to redefine what someone working in the legal industry can look like. It is no longer a profession solely for upper class white males, but in fact, accessible to all.”

The research was carried out in November of last year, the same month a leading criminal silk came under fire for suggesting pupil barristers should have “well polished shoes” and a “proper haircut”. “Even if you don’t know any law you can at least look like a barrister,” he said.

For a weekly round-up of news, plus jobs and latest event info

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Newsletter

29 Comments

Anon

Wow… it’s almost like… this is *actually* the case :O

(31)(3)

Well That Was Obvious

White – 87% of the population. Male – a majority at the senior end because so many women chose to leave professions to have kids. Middle class – lawyers are professionals and professionals are considered to be middle class by the public.

Hardly mind blowing results are they?

(98)(19)

Anon

You are not by definition middle class if you are a professional. The English class system is far more nuanced than that. Plenty of people in the professions are working class. Since most of the country is state educated, this is unsurprising.

(42)(8)

Anonymous

Yes, we know that, but the general public don’t. That is the point being made. That is why a poll of the general public, as this was, is self-serving and pointless. It was clearly set up to produce a data set to suit the social justice warriors. To Joe Public in general, lawyer = middle class, definitionally.

(29)(52)

Anon

The public understands the nuance and appreciates that being a professional does not make you middle class.

(34)(18)

Anonymous

They don’t. The public watch ITV and think Brexit is a good idea.

Anon

The public watch ITV and think Brexit is a good idea, and they understand that being a professional does not make you middle class.

If You Ask The Public

They asked the public? Then this outcome is a valid assessment which is consistent with a mixture fairly obvious objective criteria and public perception which is always subject to a marked lag. Professionals are seen as middle class by the public. After middle class child bearing age these professions are mainly male for explicable reasons. The UK is mainly white and very heavily so, some major regions are up to 96 per cent white. So any response other than male, white and middle class would be odd.

(22)(6)

Patriarchy hurts everybody

“After middle class child bearing age these professions are mainly male for explicable reasons” ?!
The vast majority of children have fathers who could take an equal role in raising children. The only reasons why women take a career hit after children are a few months old are: societal expectations that mothers spend more time bringing children up; fathers feeling unable to tell their work that they want to spend more time with their kids; mothers’ workplaces being reluctant to promote them after they have kids.
This is our patriarchal culture, it’s not a list of unavoidable, rational ‘explicable’ reasons.

(16)(39)

Not An Apologist For Racism

‘48% of Brits envision someone who works within the legal industry to be white, with just over one in ten (12%) saying they picture a person of a black or ethnic minority (BME) background.’

How embarrassing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with BME lawyers.

(9)(29)

Anonymous

Who said there was anything “wrong” with BME lawyers?

(26)(2)

Hmmmm

Pipe down – there are hardly any of them as partners, QCs or judges.

(14)(23)

Jarrod

This is disgraceful. The profession will never reach its potential with this dismal state of affairs. More needs to be done.

(5)(35)

Anonymous

What needs to be done, Jarrod, exactly what? You just cut and past the same lines, can we take it that you are just a flaming troll, since you never offer and specific actions when asked?

(18)(4)

Bob

The virtual crickets chirp.

(3)(0)

Jarrod

To begin with firms could do much, much better ensuring that there is no prejudice involved in their application process. The online application methods used by firms do not protect BAME candidates from deep rooted prejudices – plenty of perfectly good candidates are culled at the first stage because of something so simple as their name or the fact that they went to a school in a different country that the graduate recruitment team have not heard of.

At the pre-interview stage as a minimum names should not be known to the person assessing the application and education should be strictly grades only if it truly a mere “tick box” exercise (as opposed to one where people can be culled based on their wider background, aka we just want the privately educated kids from London or the home counties – who are most likely to be white and middle class).

That is just a very small step that could and should be taken at the start of the application process. Further checks and balances could be put in place to ensure life is fair later on in people’s careers.

How dare you call me a “flaming” troll. People like you are part of the problem. Wake up and smell the coffee. Stand up and do something. Action is needed now. This is disgraceful.

(15)(40)

Anonymous

It is hardly surprising that the jobs go to privately educated people. They tend to be brighter than their state school counterparts, as well as far better educated.

(36)(14)

Luca Camilleri

People say that this bias towards public (private) schools is part of a “boys’ club” mentality or “elitism”, but the fact of the matter remains that public schools are just better at educating their students

Reuben

Not necessarily smarter, just better educated. Which can often mask lack of potential. I think it is best to take a rounded picture. If somebody comes from a humble background and has got pretty good grades having gone to second rate schools, their potential might exceed somebody who was born with a silver spoon in their mouth and got marginally better grades. I think that is the only way to fairly gauge how “bright” someone might be, rather than just going straight to the Eton candidates.

Anonymous

There is no solid evidence that names have an effect on applications based on race, at least at professional occupations. So the best you can come up with is a “common sense” suggestion based on as not supported by evidence? And your “different education” example is not race based, it is nationality based. It would not affect BAME candidates from the UK would it?

That leaves institution blind recruitment. There is something to be said for that as a response to socioeconomic discrimination not race discrimination. But that has problems in the UK when there is not an objective assessment of ability like the US with LSATs or the like. Grade inflation in UK universities means one has to know the institution in question to know whether a first is really a first or whether it is an old fashioned sold 2:1. But one problem is SJWs do tend to blindly copy the demand of their US equivalents without thinking through the fact that the UK is very different from the US.

There is a massive socioeconomic discrimination problem in the legal profession and that falls disproportionately on the BAME community, but that means a just response has to focus on socioeconomic issues not race ones. Improve socioeconomic discrimination and hey presto the race based data would improve too. You are seeing a problem that is not there, or at least not there as much as you think it is, and not seeing the issue that would in fact promote the very improvements you want.

(19)(3)

Anonymous

Why is it a BME person’s fault if working class kids are told by their parents not to bother with school and that only ‘swots’ try?

If you truly want to give jobs to the ‘best’ candidates, then they should go to the ambitious BME candidates who bothered to go to uni and not those with BTECS hoping to make a living out of Love Island.

Anonymous

So 12:25 thinks showing horrific anti-working class prejudice is a reason to support discrimination drives based on ethnicity? I have not been force fed enough of the kool-aid yet to understand that.

Anon

“ULaw’s director of equality, diversity and inclusion” says it all.

(20)(1)

Trev

Funny, I always imagined them to be working class children from Chile

(46)(0)

Anonymous

It is a rational preference for a client to choose lawyers aligned socially with the judges, as they pick up each other’s social cues better. As judges tend to be male, white and privately educated, all other things being equal is a strategically sensible choice to go with a white, male, privately educated representative. That may be not be the moral choice, but when it comes to the crunch I am not going to prejudice my self interests for a greater cause. Sort out the judiciary first as it affects every other aspect of the profession.

(20)(5)

anon

“ It is no longer a profession solely for upper class white males, but in fact, accessible to all.”

LOL. Long way to go.

(5)(17)

Anon

White working class kids face the greater barriers. Hannah from the local comp will find it far tougher than Rose who was privately educated.

(30)(0)

Bob

Just look at the socioeconomic data collection on the judicial or silk application forms. They don’t collect any. Not the right sort of diversity.

(15)(0)

Anonymous

Hannah from the comp has access to free libraries, a phone with a wealth of free information on the internet to help pass her GCSES with decent grades and a roof over her head that the kid from Syria might not have.

If Hannah’s ambitions extend to becoming a hairdresser at the local college before becoming a WAG because everyone in her family makes fun of her for studying, her choices are not the result of any ‘socio-economic discrimination’.

(8)(37)

Comments are closed.

Related Stories