The chair of the Law Society’s In-House Division committee, Sapna Bedi FitzGerald, discusses what official statistics reveal about the in-house legal profession
Those of you who work as in-house lawyers know how diverse a range of roles this short description captures. We come in all shapes and sizes – industry, commerce, charities, government – you name it, they probably have an in-house lawyer or are thinking about employing one.
According to the Law Society’s official statistics, based on the 2014 practising certificate renewals data, there are 128,778 solicitors in England and Wales with 24,153 solicitors working in-house, which means we make up a significant proportion of the profession.
Of course these figures don’t paint the true picture of the in-house legal profession, given the legal executives, paralegals and barristers who also work as in-house lawyers.
Two thirds of us work in commerce and industry
We are told by the Law Society that two thirds of us work in commerce and industry. The next largest chunk is in local government followed by the Crown Prosecution Service, the Government Legal Service, not-for-profit organisations and regulatory bodies.
The post-qualified experience (PQE) of in-house solicitors also makes interesting reading. Over half of us have between five and 15 years’ experience (those who qualified between 200 and 2010). The next largest group are those with 15 to 25 years’ experience (those who qualified between 1990 and 1999). Around 10 per cent have over 25 years’ PQE and 11 per cent have less than five years experience.
My reading of these statistics is that once an individual secures an in-house role, they tend to stay in-house. The disappointing news is that we don’t appear to be either attracting or opening our doors to more junior lawyers – those with less than five years’ PQE.
We don’t appear to be opening our doors to lawyers with less than five years’ PQE
We also don’t have visibility of the number of trainees in-house. We know that there are 707 organisations registered with the SRA, but we don’t know how many of these actually have trainees in post or are operating a regular training programme each year.
I’d like to see the Law Society undertake more analysis of both the make-up of the in-house sector and the barriers to entry for those with less than five years’ PQE who want an in-house career.