Number of NQs disclosing ethnicity falls as trainee registrations drop

updated on 28 March 2022

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The Law Society’s annual statistics report 2020 offers a snapshot of the profession in the 12 months to 31 July 2020, with women outnumbering men plus concerns regarding ethnicity reporting and monitoring as most newly-qualified solicitors do not disclose “their ethnic origin on the mySRA website”.

As of 31 July 2020, there were more than 202,374  on the roll, with the number of practising certificate holders (PC holders) increasing by 2% to 149,891. Women with practising certificates made up 52% of the 149,891, while PC holders from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups fell by 13.7%.

The Law Society suggested a reason for the drop being an increase in non-reporting of ethnicity as it reported more than 33,500 unknown ethnic origins – an increase on the findings in its 2019 report.

A comparison of PC holders from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups and the rest of the working population indicated that the proportion of Black, Asian and minority ethnic people in the legal profession exceeds that of the rest of the labour force in most of the country. The North East, Wales and, most significantly, Greater London are the three regions in which this is not true.

Meanwhile, in Greater London Black, Asian and minority ethnic lawyers make up just 16.6% of PC holders, while White Europeans make up nearly 60%. In this area overall, the report found that the number of PC holders from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds has been falling.

The Law Society believes this is likely “due to an increase of non-reporting of ethnicity”. It adds: “Most newly admitted solicitors do not provide their ethnic origin on the mySRA website. Unless this data is collected through other means, the ability to monitor diversity trends based on individuals’ ethnicity will be further impacted.”

In 2020, more than 17,000 students graduated with degrees in law from universities in England and Wales. Among those accepted into first degree law courses, 42% were from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic background – 42% for men and 40% for women – with White candidates making up 56% to 59% of acceptances. When considering all ethnic backgrounds, women made up two-thirds of candidates who were accepted.

On top of this, the number of trainee registrations fell by just over 10%, with the Law Society citing the covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns as having impacted this statistic. According to the report, registrations from April to July 2020 were, on average, 59% less than the previous year. Meanwhile, one-third of all trainees are working in the City of London, and nearly 90% of trainees work in private practice and the rest in-house.

Elsewhere, the number of registered private practice firms fell from 9,339 to 9,109 in the 12 months to 31 July 2020, while the number of PC holders working in private practice hit 95,954.

You can visit LawCareers.Net’s Diversity hub for more information on what law firms, chambers, education providers and the profession are doing to improve diversity and inclusion.