The legal scene
What should focus minds are the gender pay gaps at firms across the profession, but particularly at the largest and wealthiest firms. An analysis by The Times shows that women working at the 10 largest firms are being paid 43% less on average than their male colleagues. The national median average wage gap is 9.6%. BAME representation at the Bar Just under 13%of practisingbarristers in2018 were fromBAMEbackgrounds, according to the Bar StandardsBoard (BSB), with the figure rising to 16%amongpupil barristers. On the surface, itmight seemthat inaccessibility at theBar is a smaller problemthan it ismadeout tobe, as at the last Census in2011, 14%of theUKpopulation wasBAME– roughly in linewithpupillage figures. But adeeper look at BPTCgraduate andpupillage figures reveals adifferent picture. BPTCstudent andblogger, BlessingMukosha Park, toldLawCareers.Net in June: “I havehad a lot of rejections inmyquest for pupillageand have lost count of thenumber of times that I’ve been told ‘don’tworry, it’s anumbers game’ in the feedback I’ve received, butwhen you look at the statistics, that explanationbecomesmuch harder toprocess. According to theBSB, of the 1,351 peoplecalled to theBar in2017-18, 741were fromBAMEbackgrounds and586 werewhite. Compare this to thenumberswho startedpupillage in the sameperiod, which show therewere just 71 BAME first-sixpupils to390 whitepupils. These figures further reinforce the extremely unfortunateperceptionof theBar as anelitist institution that favours aparticular social andeconomicbackground.” Research by the BSB shows that last year, 84% of white candidates with a first-class degree and an ‘outstanding’ BPTC grade secured pupillage, compared with 71% of BAME candidates with the same grades. Among those with a 2:1, 44% of white candidates gained pupillage compared with just 23% of BAME candidates. And among those with a 2:2, 26% of white candidates
Bar, although important progresshasbeen (and is being)made insomeareas.
BAME representation in the solicitors’ profession Some 21%of solicitors inEngland andWales have aBAMEbackground, according to the SolicitorsRegulationAuthority’s (SRA) latest statistics, with little variation according to seniority – 20%of partners in law firms are alsoBAME. However, there are differences in representation at senior levelswhen looking at firms by size. The largest firms (50ormore partners) have the lowest proportion of BAME partners – only 8%. This contrastswith small single-partner firms, 34%of which are run by a solicitor fromaBAMEbackground. The overall proportion of BAME partners in law firms has remained the same since 2014, which reinforces the perception among critics and equality advocates that the elite end of the solicitors’ profession still has a lot to do to show that it is serious about equal representation. Gender equality in the solicitors’ profession According to theLawSociety, womenhavemade upmore than60%of entrants into the solicitors’ profession since 1990.Womenmakeup just over half of practisingsolicitors, but only27% of partners inprivatepractice. Clearly, lawfirms need todomore topromoteand retainwomen to reverse the trend–highlynoticeablewithin some organisations –ofwomen leavingpracticeafter havingchildren. Flexible and agile working, mentoring and networking are vital aspects of that process and many law firms are increasingly adopting all three. Another measure that the profession is attempting involves specific gender targets, which the Women in Law pledge, launched by the Law Society, Bar Council and Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, demands of firms that sign up. Of course, with the pledge only voluntary, its effectiveness remains to be seen.
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