Accessibility Links

Is the UK's legal sector getting more diverse?

Posted by: Laurence Simons 14/10/13

Despite the best efforts of certain politicians, there is no doubt the UK has become a more diverse and welcoming society over the last fifty years, with particular strides being made in terms of gender and sexuality.

This was reflected in the recent cabinet reshuffle, with Ed Miliband emphasising his right-on credentials by installing several women in top positions - Liam Byrne was shifted from work and pensions to be replaced by Rachel Reeves, while Maria Eagle was named shadow environment strategy.

Even Cameron managed to grit his teeth and add more diversity to his front bench, naming Helen Grant as sports minister.

Society has become more tolerant and forward-thinking, on the whole - but concerns still exist over diversity at the top tier of the business world. Law, however, proves to be something of an exception.

According to new research from legal recruiter Laurence Simons, 18 per cent of lawyers are from non-white ethnic backgrounds, compared to 14 per cent of the UK. Furthermore, four per cent of legal workers identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, up from 1.7 per cent in 2011.

"Far from the stuffy image law has traditionally had, it's actually a very diverse profession. This reflects both its meritocracy and the capacity for the UK legal sector to attract talent from all around the world," said Chris Cayley, Laurence Simons' managing director for Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

However, the sector cannot afford to rest on its laurels, with the report suggesting it faces some of the same gender imbalances that are apparent throughout the corporate world.

At associate level, 48 per cent of lawyers are female but at partner level, this drops back to 28 per cent.

Offering flexible working solutions to women who wish to combine their family with a high-flying legal career is often suggested as a way to drive up gender diversity, with the concept of introducing targets remaining contentious.