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What does a lawyer look like?

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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.

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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.

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