Only 90 out of 13,000 partners in England and Wales are Black, report finds

updated on 21 October 2022

Reading time: two minutes 

Just 90 out of over 13,000 partners at law firms within England and Wales are Black, according to a report by diversity consultancy extense.

The 1% Study’, named after the fact only 1% of partners at major UK law firms are Black, highlights the cruciality of firms addressing underrepresentation within the legal sector, calling for firms to attract, develop, progress, and retain diverse talent to senior levels.   

The lack of Black partners highlights the need for the legal profession to urgently address its barriers to progression for Black lawyers.  

David Lammy, the official patron of the ‘1% Study’ writes in The Guardian: “In recent years issues of racial inequity have been thrust into the spotlight. We must seize this momentum to drive positive societal change. Improving representation in the legal profession will enable the sector to benefit from the brilliance of difference, leveraging the rich and diverse tapestry of cultures and ethnicities that make up our national identity; and better reflect the global client base that the legal sector serves.” 

extense ran a 21-month intense primary research investigation, interviewing Black partners at law firms across the UK to understand the core contributing factors that have assisted Black solicitors in reaching partner level at UK law firms. Their research is endorsed by The Law Society of England and Wales, and the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and is sponsored by five major law firms: 

The consultancy interviewed 65 Black partners at major UK firms uncovering that ‘outsider’ status, not having access to the same networks as their white peers, pressure to assimilate, and receiving less high-quality work as well as harsher scrutiny were major themes of Black partners’ experiences.  

The report also identifies five key actions law firms are currently not taking, but need to address if they’re to tackle the lack of Black representation in senior positions: 

  1. Tying executive compensation to diversity and inclusion outcomes
  2. Training for supervisors in managing diverse teams
  3. Support for the “nuanced needs and talents acutely faced by Black talent”
  4. Sponsorship programmes to target underrepresented talent
  5. Delegating work and career development opportunities equitably, including through use of algorithmic technology  

Managing director of extense, Julian Richard said: “Black representation has remained relatively stagnant for several years and worryingly low at the partnership level. Our actions lay a path for accelerating the retention and progression of Black talent to senior levels. We encourage firms to be bold with this necessary step-change.” 

Find out more about the experiences of Black lawyers in our LCN Says Black History Month book review.