Almost 80% of Scottish solicitors and accredited paralegals feel that gender equality has improved in the legal profession over the past five years.

The ‘Profile of the Profession’ survey published today Wednesday 5 December 2018 by the Law Society of Scotland, questioned over 2,700 solicitors, trainee solicitors and accredited paralegals. The results show that the gender pay gap within the profession has reduced from 42% in 2013 when the Profile of the Profession research was last carried out to 23% in 2018.

Work-life balance is very important to the legal profession. The majority of respondents, at 73%, felt that they were or mostly were achieving a reasonable work-life balance.  At the same time, work-life balance was the most frequently given reason by 54% of respondents who stated they had considered leaving the profession in the past five years.

Achieving a work-life balance was the most important career aspiration over the next five years for almost a third of respondents. With promotion and progression lower down in the priorities list with a quarter stating this.

The research examined equality and diversity of the Law Society’s members and was carried out by independent researchers Rocket Science.

The research also highlighted some areas of concern.

A fifth of respondents, at 20%, had at some stage in their career personally experienced discrimination in the profession. 16% had experienced bullying over the past five years and 3% of respondents reported having experienced sexual harassment.

37% of respondents with disabilities were either not provided with, or were too apprehensive to request, a reasonable adjustment at work.

Alison Atack, President of the Law Society of Scotland said “I have mixed emotions about the survey results. Pleased on the one hand that while there is still more to do, we have made real progress in many areas of equality and diversity but I am also saddened that any member of the legal profession has experienced bullying or discrimination.

“We want the Scottish legal profession to be diverse and fair, accessible to anyone with drive and talent who dreams of joining the legal profession, regardless of their background. We want people who join the legal profession to have a long, fulfilling career.

“That’s why we have worked with law firms and other employers to promote the benefits of flexible working, created equality and diversity standards, launched our wellbeing project and set up the Lawscot Foundation to support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds through their legal education journey.

“The #metoo movement has focused minds globally on bullying, harassment and sexual harassment and we have published updated guidance on preventing bullying and harassment. Diversity brings a richer, stronger profession and we have seen solicitors pushing and supporting social change. We will continue to work with employers, representative groups such as The Glass Network, SEMLA and Women in Law Scotland as well as our members to ensure we stamp out bullying and discrimination in the legal profession.”

The Law Society has published 28 recommendations to address equality and diversity issues within the profession in its report. These include:

  • Promoting the benefits of flexible working to larger employers.
  • Providing unconscious bias training to the profession.
  • Host a summit of leaders from across the legal profession to discuss the extent of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment and consider how together we can affect cultural change across the sector. We will ask those leaders to commit to a zero tolerance approach. We will work with other bodies in the Scottish justice sector to eliminate bullying, harassment and sexual harassment.
  • Introducing a service for disabled solicitors to support applications for reasonable adjustments and provide guidance.
  • Working with employers to offer work experience opportunities to students and graduates with disabilities.
  • Encouraging senior leaders in the profession to take part in an LGBT+ awareness-raising campaign.
  • Working with legal employers to support their LGBT+ staff by developing clear policies, training their staff, and ensuring inclusive recruitment practices.
  • We will use what we learnt from the success of #TheseAreOurPrinciples campaign and apply it to a campaign to highlight black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) role models in the legal profession.
  • Targeting our mentoring programme to groups which are under-represented at senior levels within the legal profession.

The full ‘Profile of the Profession’ report, along with the Law Society’s report into the 28 steps it will take to address equality and diversity issues in the legal profession and comparisons with other professions are available to view on the Law Society’s website.


Profile of the profession

The Profile of the Profession is major study of those working in Scotland’s legal sector. It was last conducted in May 2018, with more than 2,700 Scottish solicitors and accredited paralegals taking part.

Further information

The Glass Network is an awareness-raising and networking group for LGBT+ and allied members of the Scottish Legal profession. The organisation is open to all legal professionals in Scotland and welcomes people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, including those identifying as straight and cisgender. The Law Society of Scotland supported their campaign #TheseAreOurPrinciples in 2017. The campaign encouraged everyone regardless of sexual orientation or gender to support diversity in the workplace, whatever the size or type of business or organisation. Leading public and legal figures, including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Law Commissioner Hector MacQueen took part in the campaign.

SEMLA was founded in 2017 with the support of the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates. The group focuses on the mentoring, networking and support of ethnic minority lawyers in Scotland to encourage better and more diverse representation in all branches of the legal profession.

Women in Law Scotland (WILS) is a network aiming to promote gender equality in the Scottish legal profession and to create a forum for networking, sharing ideas and best practice.