Women solicitor ranks growing at more than three times rate of men in England and Wales

Number of solicitors with practising certificates reaches all-time high with women now accounting for 53% of total


The number of solicitors on the roll has reached an all-time high while the number of women with a practising certificate has been growing at more than three times the rate of men, according to new report from the Law Society.

The Law Society’s annual statistics report revealed the number of solicitors with practising certificates (PCs) reached a record 153,283 in the 12 months to 31 July 2021, marking a 2% increase on the previous year. The number of solicitors on the roll, meanwhile, increased by 3% to hit an all-time high of 209,215. 

The number of women with PCs has been growing at more than three times the rate of men on average over the past decade, with women now making up 53% of those practising within England & Wales compared to 47% in 2013. The total number of women solicitors on the roll now sits at 110,118 or 52.6% of the total.  

Women PC holders have also seen a much faster growth rate than men over the past three decades, growing from 14,179 to 80,881 - a fivefold increase. 

Among younger lawyers with PCs women consistently outnumber men, often significantly – the 26-30 age range is made up of 5,796 men but 10,698 women. The gap narrows toward middle age, and after the age of 46 men consistently outnumber women.  

The number of women partners, meanwhile, increased by 0.3% to reach 8,930, continuing what the report described as ‘the slow steady growth over the past few years’. 

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Dana Denis-Smith, CEO of Obelisk Support, remarked the standout statistic from the report was the number of women and those from Black, Asian and minority backgrounds attracted to the profession. 

She said: “This is a testament to the great work some law firms are doing to cater to a more diverse workforce and the realisation that solicitors want more than just a busy caseload from their employer. It also reflects the efforts of alternative legal services providers, like Obelisk, who are paving the way with new ways to practice law.” 

Amongst PC holders reporting their ethnicity, those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds increased by 0.5% and now account for 18% of all PC holders with known ethnicity.     

‘Though this proportion continues to grow at a slow rate it has been consistently improving over the past ten years,’ the report said. 

The proportion of solicitors working in-house grew to 25% as it continued at a steady average increase of 1% each year, though the report noted this is still a likely underestimate as some PC holders are not officially recorded as working in-house.

Stephanie Boyce, Law Society president, said: “As an in-house lawyer myself, it is encouraging to see solicitors employed in-house by organisations, ranging from FTSE and private companies to local authorities now make up a quarter of the profession.”

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