New reports on admissions and diversity in the legal profession have been released by the Australian Conference of Law Societies, the Legal Services Regulatory Authority of Ireland (LSRA), the Law Society of Scotland and the Bar Standards Board of England and Wales.
The 2020 National Profile of Solicitors in Australia, produced on behalf of the Conference of Law Societies, an organisation that represents the different law societies from across the Australian territories, show that there are now 83,643 solicitors practising in Australia, an increase of 26,066 solicitors since 2011, representing a 45% increase. The report also shows that women now make up 53% of solicitors across the country, up from 46% in 2011.
The report has also found that there has been a 59% increase in practice in those aged 65 or older, with the average age being 42 years old, and that in 2020, 632 solicitors identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait islander, representing 0.8% of all solicitors in Australia. Since 2014, this trend has remained relatively stable. The report also shows that the majority of solicitors operate in private practice, however corporate legal has been the most rapidly growing area.
On the 30th of June, the LSRA published its second annual admissions report entitled ‘Pathways to the Professions 2020: Annual Report on Admission Policies of the Legal Professions’.
The key findings of the report include:
- 906 solicitors were admitted to the Roll of Solicitors in 2020, a 62% decrease on 2019
- The “Brexit-effect” whereby UK qualified lawyers qualify into Ireland has begun to subside. The number of England and Wales-qualified solicitors entering the Roll, has dropped to 443 compared to 1,838 in 2019 (this may partly be due to saturation and partly due to changes to the admission policy requiring England and Wales qualified solicitors to demonstrate an intention to practice in Ireland)
- A total of 11,854 solicitors held Irish practising certificates on 31 December 2020, a decrease of 105 from 2019
- A total of 167 barristers were called to the Bar of Ireland in 2020, this is down 14% from 190 in 2019.
- Of the 167 barristers admitted to practise in the year, 116 were graduates of the King’s Inns Barrister-at-Law degree course. The total also includes 47 barristers admitted having obtained their professional qualifications in England and Wales or Northern Ireland.
Diversity data collected as part of the annual Practising Certificate (PC) renewal process has been published by the Law Society of Scotland. Diversity questions were included for the first time in the 2020/21 PC renewal process, with around 80% of respondents providing a response to diversity questions. Respondents were asked about their ethnicity, disability, religion, sexual orientation, and social background, including the type of school they mainly attended and what their parents’ occupation was.
Key findings include:
- The Scottish legal profession is getting more ethnically diverse, although more slowly than the wider population. Just over 88% of the profession is white, with at least 3.38% of the profession coming from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background.
- Almost 7% of solicitors aged under 30 come from a BAME background.
- Around two-thirds of newly admitted members were female.
- 3.2% of the profession is LGBTQ+.
- 4.8% of the profession has a disability, such as blindness, deafness or a mobility impairment.
Barristers in England and Wales
The BSB has published the seventh and final annual edition of its statistical information relating to student performance on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). The report uses data from students from the 2019-2020 academic year, as well as the preceding two academic years. The report includes information on the demographics and results of those who enrolled on the BPTC, as well as the success rates of those seeking a pupillage after the course.
Key findings include:
- 18% fewer of the students who enrolled in 2019-20 completed the course compared to the year before and the of the UK and EU graduates in the same period 10% began a pupillage in 2020-21 compared to 23% in the 2018-19 cohort, reflecting a 35% fall in pupillage places. This drop may be partially related to COVID-19 as well as Brexit.
- 1,685 students enrolled on the BPTC in 2019-20, a decrease of 68 students compared to 2018-19.
- 46% of students 46% who enrolled on the BPTC in 2019-20 were overseas (non-UK/EU) domiciled,
- Female BPTC students increased from 52.3% in 2011-12 to 57.8% in 2019-20
- of the 95% who provided information on their ethnicity, the percentage of UK/EU domiciled students from a minority ethnic group was 35% in 2019-20. This was down by around five percentage points compared to 2018-19, and was at the lowest level since 2015-16;
As well as this the report found that 39.5% of UK/EU students who enrolled on the course from 2015 to 2019 had started a pupillage by March 2021 of these 55% were female, and when controlling for academic and BPTC results found that those from a white background were more likely to commence a pupillage, with 41% of white students starting a pupillage compared with 23% of those from a minority background.