What We Know About Diversity in the Legal Profession


Diversity is now a part of our moral fiber and is gaining more prominence. The legal fraternity emphasizes educating students, law firms, and barristers chambers about diversity. There is the greater importance of ensuring that the legal profession reflects the society it serves. Discover how the industry is addressing challenges of diversity and inclusion.

Is the legal profession diverse?

The belief is that law jobs, particularly lawyers and barristers, are for white, middle- to upper-class males and exclude all others.

That is a significant preconception to overcome. The legal profession has a long way to go before eradicating inequality. However, advances are working towards increasing diversity, encouraging inclusion in the industry, and combating discrimination.

Employers cannot discriminate on the basis of nine protected traits under the 2010 Equality Act. Age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, sex, pregnancy, gender reassignment, and disability.


A disability might be manifested physically or invisibly, as with mental disease. Lawyers with disabilities may encounter discrimination throughout the recruitment process. This is due to a lack of awareness and worries about their condition. They frequently have difficulties with facility accessibility and reasonable accommodations.


Women account for nearly half (49%) of lawyers in law firms and three-quarters of the workforce for ‘other legal personnel. However, the underrepresentation of women at top levels is more pronounced.

In firms with 50 or more partners, just 29% of women are partners:

Law firms across the sector recognize the need to do more to level the playing field in gender disparity. As a result, several have recently increased their gender diversity targets after falling short of previous targets.

DLA Piper declared their commitment to raise female partnership to 30% during the next four years, to reach 40% by 2030. Freshfields and Clifford Chance are both members of the magic circle. They have the ambition to create a global partnership of at least 40% women by 2026 and 2030.

The Women Lawyers Division of the Law Society encourages diversity. It offers guidance and assistance to all female attorneys, from trainees to retirees. The Association of Women Solicitors (AWS) also advocates for and supports women’s legal concerns. They facilitate professional development through educational programs, networking opportunities, and mentoring.


According to the SRA’s diversity data, 21% of all lawyers are African-American, Asian, or members of a minority ethnic group. The following table summarizes the situation:

15% are Asian, and 3% are African-American.

2% of the population is mixed/multi-ethnic, and 1% is from other ethnic groups.

Both African-American and Asian-American lawyers are underrepresented in mid-to-large-sized firms. The SRA data further breaks down these figures to reveal that firms specializing in criminal and private client work. They have the most significant percentage of Black, Asian, and minority ethnic lawyers. In contrast, firms specializing in mixed or corporate business have the lowest percentage.

There is more that needs doing in this area. Plans and projects are in place to enhance the presence of Black, Asian, and other ethnic groups in the profession.

For instance, DWF introduced its Ethnic Minority Access Scheme with Aspiring Solicitors in 2020. Six individuals from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic backgrounds will earn paid work experience in the firm’s London or Manchester offices. Each year, the program will be.

The #10000BlackInterns program will give paid work experience in several industries. They also get training and development opportunities and mentorship to increase the chances available to young Black people. 700 businesses throughout the country, including over 20 law firms and five barristers chambers, have already committed to offering internships. This is to begin in the summer of 2022.

The Black Solicitors Network (BSN) represents the interests of current and prospective Black solicitors in England and Wales. It is committed to fostering ‘equality of access, retention, and advancement of Black solicitors. Its Junior Attorneys Group (JLG) aims to link junior lawyers throughout the legal profession. They serve as a venue for support, inspiration, and guidance.

Social Mobility

It has long been a widely held opinion that the legal profession is elitist, and this is not without basis. Historically, the cost of learning to be a solicitor or barrister has kept all but the wealthiest people out.

According to SRA data, 21% of attorneys attended a fee-paying school, compared to 7% of the general population. A higher percentage of lawyers also had parents with a degree level background (51 percent).

In recent years, there has been a success in increasing access to the sector. Boosting social mobility is a priority for many legal firms if organizational diversity targets are any indication.

Law apprenticeships have created a path to legal careers. It assists persons who would have been unable to study law previously due to prohibitively expensive tuition expenses.

Linklaters, a firm specializing in magic circles, recently introduced the ‘Making Links Discovery’ program for 16 to 18-year-olds. The integrated, 18-month program increases legal profession access and enhances social mobility and racial and ethnic diversity. It includes mentorship, tutoring, university admission guidance, and skills training.

Successful applicants receive financing, job experience, and coaching under the Law Society’s Diversity Access Scheme (DAS). Visit their page to determine your eligibility and application process.

Additionally, law firms dominated the Social Mobility Foundation’s most recent Employer Index for Social Mobility. On the 2020 list of the best 75 employers for social mobility, four law firms rank in the top 10. These include; (Bryan Cave, Leighton Paisner, Browne Jacobson, Herbert Smith Freehills, and Baker McKenzie. Linklaters, Freshfields, and Hogan Lovells also made the top twenty.

While steps to improve diversity in the legal fraternity are coming along, much needs to be done. Representation is still far below the required threshold for an inclusive society. White men still enjoy an unfair advantage as compared to other demography.