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07 December 2018

'Mixed emotions' as Scots legal profession gets the memo

Scots legal profession seems to be getting the memo on work/life balance and gender equality, but survey reveals some mixed results.


According to a Law Society of Scotland survey, almost 80 per cent of Scottish solicitors and accredited paralegals believe the profession has improved on gender equality over the past five years, and is achieving a better work-life balance. However, the society’s president has raised concerns over a mixed set of results.

Work-life balance

The ‘Profile of the Profession’ survey shows that the gender pay gap within the profession has reduced from 42 per cent in 2013 when the Profile of the Profession research was last carried out to 23 per cent in 2018. Another prominent issue flagged as important to the legal profession is work-life balance. The majority of respondents, at 73 per cent, felt that they were or mostly were achieving a reasonable work-life balance.  At the same time, work-life balance was the most frequently given reason by 54 per cent of respondents who stated they had considered leaving the profession in the past five years. Achieving a work-life balance was the most important career aspiration over the next five years for almost a third of respondents. With promotion and progression lower down in the priorities list with a quarter stating this.

Mixed emotions

A fifth of respondents, at 20 per cent, had at some stage in their career personally experienced discrimination in the profession, with 16 per cent experiencing bullying over the past five years and 3 per cent reporting having experienced sexual harassment. Also, 37 per cent of respondents with disabilities were either not provided with, or were too apprehensive to request, a reasonable adjustment at work. Alison Atack, president of the Law Society of Scotland said ‘I have mixed emotions about the survey results. Pleased on the one hand that while there is still more to do, we have made real progress in many areas of equality and diversity but I am also saddened that any member of the legal profession has experienced bullying or discrimination.’ The Law Society has published 28 recommendations to address equality and diversity issues within the profession in its report.

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