Diversity data collected as part of the annual Practising Certificate (PC) renewal process has been published by the Law Society of Scotland, offering a valuable insight into today’s Scottish legal profession.
Diversity questions were included for the first time in the 2020/21 PC renewal process, in order to give a better understanding of what the profession looks like and help support and advance the Law Society’s equality and diversity work.
Around 80% of members completed the data, providing the most comprehensive picture of the diversity of the profession to date, how it compares to the diversity of the wider Scottish population and the challenges that the profession faces.
Solicitors were asked for information on their ethnicity, disability, religion, sexual orientation, and social background, including the type of school they mainly attended and what their parents’ occupation was. The data was automatically pseudonymised to protect members’ identities.
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.
- While the feminisation of the profession continues, with around two-thirds of all newly admitted members being female each year, there appears to be an acute issue attracting BAME men into the profession, with just 28% of BAME solicitors under 30 being male.
- At least 3.2% of the profession is LGBTQ+.
- At least 4.8% of the profession has a disability, such as blindness, deafness or a mobility impairment.
- More than 46% of Scottish solicitors do not subscribe to a religion.
- More than two-thirds of the profession mainly attended a state school.
- A solicitor’s socio-economic background does not appear to affect their career progression once they are in the profession. For example, those whose parents did routine/manual work are just as likely to be partners. However, it appears to be harder for those from lower socio-economic backgrounds to enter the profession to begin with.
President of the Law Society of Scotland Ken Dalling said: “We undertook this research to gain a better understanding of the Scottish legal profession and how well it reflects the society that it serves. The information obtained provides a vital and worthwhile insight into the composition of the profession and the challenges that we face. Whilst it is heartening to see that the profession is becoming more diverse, there is still progress to be made.
“With the majority of members completing the diversity information, we have our strongest evidence base yet to help us set effective policies that address the issues identified. We will do all we can to help encourage and support equal opportunities across the profession, and this data gives us a key set of benchmarks to measure our progress towards a truly inclusive profession.”
The research follows on from the Law Society’s 2018 Profile of the Profession report, which was completed by around 30% of membership and examined a broad range of equality and diversity issues. The diversity data is not intended to replace the Profile of the Profession, but aims to help expand the Law Society’s understanding of the profession and inform its work, such as that being undertaken by the Racial Inclusion Group.
The Law Society will collect the diversity data every two years. The next set of data will therefore be collated during the Practising Certificate renewal of autumn 2022.