We collected diversity data for the first time as part of the annual Practising Certificate (PC) renewal process for 2020/21 in order to better understand what the Scottish legal profession looks like and support and advance our equality and diversity work.

The diversity data was completed by around 80% of the membership. It offers the most complete picture of the profession to date, providing a valuable insight into how the profession compares to the diversity of the population of Scotland as a whole and the challenges that we face.

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.

We worked closely with representative groups, including the Scottish Ethnic Minorities Lawyers’ Association (SEMLA), The Glass Network and the charity Inclusion Scotland, to ensure that the information collected was as comprehensive as possible and all diversity data was automatically pseudonymised to protect members’ identities.

The research follows on from our 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 our understanding of the profession and inform our work, such as that being undertaken by our Racial Inclusion Group.

We will collect the diversity data every two years, which means the next set of data will be collated during the Practising Certificate renewal of autumn 2022.

If you would like to know more about this research, please contact diversity@lawscot.org.uk.

Key findings

  • 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 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 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.
  • Over 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.

It should be noted that the diversity data does not capture trainee data, because many trainees do not have a PC and so cannot renew it, and those who do renew are recorded as “employees” as they are PC holders. We are currently investigating how best to capture trainee diversity data.

The infographic below provides an illustrative overview of the headline stats from the data. If you have problems viewing the charts, you may need to update your browser. Alternatively, you can download a PDF version of our diversity data here.