There was a 9 per cent rise in the number of trainee registrations in the 12 months to 31 July 2015, compared with the year before, according to the recently published Law Society Annual Statistics Report for 2015. 

Headline findings of the report include:

  • As at 31 July 2015 there were 133,367 solicitors with practising certificates (1), 2.3 per cent higher than at 31 July 2014.
  • Representation of Black Asian and Minority Ethnic groups among practising solicitors stood at 15.5 per cent, more than doubling since 2000. There were 18,547 practising solicitors from minority ethnic groups in 2015 – up from 17,831 in 2014 and from 5,009 in 2000.
  • The gender gap continues to close: 51.2 per cent of practising solicitors are men and 48.8 per cent are women. The proportion of female practising solicitors has risen from 40.5 per cent ten years ago.
  • There was a 9 per cent rise in the number of trainee registrations in the 12 months to 31 July 2015, compared with the year before. The majority of this increase is accounted for by the continued rise in women accepted on courses.
  • Solicitors working in-house made up 21.6 per cent of practising solicitors in 2015, up from 15.0 per cent in 2000. This proportion is expected to grow further over the coming years.
  • The number of private practice firms operating in England and Wales fell to 9,403 in 2015, which is just over 1,000 fewer firms than existed at a peak five years ago. With the number of private practice firms falling, and the numbers of PC holders rising, the average number of private practice solicitors per firm grew to 9.7.
  • Over 5,000 commerce and industry organisations employed practising solicitors in 2015, an increase of 4.4 per cent on a year earlier.
  • More than a fifth of all practising solicitors in England and Wales now work in the City of London (numbers in the City have risen by 60 per cent over the past 10 years – double the rate of growth in other areas).

Law Society chief executive Catherine Dixon commented: ’The legal sector contributes £25.7bn to the economy each year, with net exports now at £3.6bn per annum, so the growth in the sector indicated by our research is great news for the UK. The significant increase in the number of commercial organisations employing practising solicitors in the 12 months to 31 July 2015 reflects the central role of General Counsel and in-house teams as business advisors who drive innovation and shape organisational risk culture.

However, we know that in some areas, such as publicly-funded legal advice, recruitment is far more challenging. Continued consolidation in the market is evidenced by a rise in the number of solicitors working in private practice alongside a further fall in the number of private practice firms, which now stands at 1,000 fewer than five years ago. Diversity is improving, with the proportion of BAME solicitors continuing to grow and more women than men entering the profession. However, the gender and ethnicity gap at a more senior level continues. Firms with good diversity, inclusion and social mobility policies have a competitive advantage.

Through the Law Society Diversity and Inclusion Charter, our Diversity Access Scheme and by working closely with law firms we support the profession to give all talented individuals who aspire to a career as a solicitor fair access and opportunity to pursue their ambition.’