Diversity League Table: minorities still under-represented at the top of the profession

The latest Diversity League Table from the Black Solicitors Network suggests that despite improved access to the profession minority groups remain under-represented at the top.

According to the survey, just 12 per cent of QCs and 27 per cent of partners are women, while just 5 per cent of QCs and 8 per cent of partners are from an ethnic minority background.

This is in contrast to the fact that of those taking up pupillages at the Bar, 18 per cent are from an ethnic minority and 41 per cent are female, while of those entering firms as trainees, 17 per cent are from an ethnic minority and 56 per cent are female.

Diversity League Table head researcher Professor Peter Urwin said: “There has been relatively slow growth across chambers and firms for a few years, which is part of the reason that Baroness Hale recently jumped in to point out that things need to change more”.

The number of law firms involved in the survey was down this year, with 42 taking part compared to last year’s 50 but the bar showed considerable growth in those signing up to the diversity survey, with almost double the number taking part this year (29) as did in 2010 (16).

The survey breaks the table down in various ways, looking at gender, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation.

The demographic tables quantify the representation of women and ethnic minority lawyers at various career levels in firms and chambers, whereas the overall ranking includes qualitative measures, such as policies and initiatives to improve diversity and inclusion.

The top five firms in the overall diversity league table this year were, Matthew Arnold & Baldwin, O’Melveny & Myers, Shoosmiths, Linklaters and McMillan Williams Solicitors.

However, in the demographic table, which reflects the level of ethnic and gender diversity across partners, associates and trainees, McMillan Williams came out top, ranked number one for gender equality and second for ethnic diversity.

Matthew Arnold & Baldwin came out second in the demographic table, although it only made the top five for diversity among trainees, dropping lower down the rankings for associates and partners.

O’Melveny & Myers came third in the overall demographic table, while

Shoosmiths, Irwin Mitchell, Flint Bishop, Sidley Austin and Mayer Brown all retained a place in the top ten, with Shoosmiths and Irwin Mitchell taking the fourth and fifth spots respectively.

The top five chambers in the overall diversity league table were, Matrix, Coram, Hardwicke, One Crown Office Row and Five Paper.

Taking the top spot in the overall demographic ranking for chambers this year was 25 Bedford Row, which moved up the table from eighth position last year. It ranked first for ethnic representation among QCs, barristers and pupils and for gender diversity among pupils, but it came eight and twentieth for female barristers and QCs respectively.

Coram and Tooks made similar leaps up the rankings compared to last year, from sixth to second and seventh to third respectively. Red Lion and 9 Bedford Row took joint fourth position, with Matrix close behind in sixth place.

The report highlights the fact that the majority of firms and chambers placed in the top 10 of ethnic diversity tables tend to be there because of a relatively high representation of Asian lawyers. Black lawyers still only make up 0.6 per cent of partners and 1 per cent of QCs.

Black Solicitors Network chair Nwabueze Nwokolo said she was very disappointed to see that there hadn’t been an improvement in the numbers of lawyers of Black and African descent in the profession.

Nwokolo said the problems are further compounded by wider changes to the sector. “It is very difficult when you take into account changes to legal aid. It’s going to have an adverse effect on black lawyers who have done well in setting up their firms to deliver a service to the communities they live in but if Chris Grayling’s changes come in, they will take a massive step backwards,” she said.