Law graduate numbers hit record high while number of firms hit record low

updated on 03 October 2022

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Nearly 19,000 students graduated with law degrees from universities in England and Wales in 2021 – the highest number on record – while the number of firms in England and Wales fell to a record low.

According to the Law Society’s Annual Statistics Report 2021, of the 18,927 law graduates, 81% achieved a first or upper second degree. Meanwhile, the number of solicitors on the roll reportedly hit 209,215, an increase of 3% on the previous year, and the number of trainee registrations fell by 2% to 5,495, which is the lowest figure for the past five years. However, the number of those admitted to the roll (6,981) hit the highest on record over the past decade.

Elsewhere, the representation of solicitors from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds grew, reaching 18% of those with known ethnicity. The number of solicitors working in-house continued to grow by 1%, reaching 25% in 2021. However, the Law Society report states that this figure is a “likely underestimate as some PC holders are not officially recorded as working in-house”. Looking more broadly, the number of firms within England and Wales has been falling over the past five years, and reached a low of 9,020 as of 2021.

Law Society President I. Stephanie Boyce is encouraged 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”.

Boyce adds: “It is also encouraging to see the number of women working in the profession and people from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic background.

“There is, however, more work to be done in increasing representation of those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic, and low socio-economic backgrounds, as well as increasing the number of women in the higher echelons of the profession.

“The decline in the number of firms also highlights the need for widespread investment in our justice system including legal aid rates to ensure lawyers are there when needed.”