Law dominated by white, middle class men, mums sidelined

An overwhelming majority of lawyers believe the profession is dominated by white, middle-class men and that developing a career in law as a mother is difficult.

According to the Innovation in Law survey, carried out by IPSOS Mori and commissioned by Hodge Jones & Allen, 74 per cent of the 500 lawyers surveyed felt that “senior positions throughout the legal profession are dominated by white, public school educated men”.

The bulk of lawyers also felt that career progression was difficult as a mother, with only 12 per cent feeling it was easy to combine being a mother with developing a career in the legal progression.

Lawyers were generally pessimistic about the state of the industry, including the impacts of the Jackson Reforms of the civil justice system and the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.

Almost 70 per cent said they would not recommend the legal progression as a career and only 55 per cent said they were not planning to continue in law for the rest of their careers.

However there was a split in sentiment between smaller and larger firms, with only 16 per cent of those working in smaller firms feeling optimistic about the future compared to 52 per cent of those in firms employing more than 250 people.

That could be due to the general sentiment that increased competition will mean big practices dominate the marketplace and multi-disciplinary professional services companies will proliferate. Of those surveyed, 89 per cent agreed there would be more of those sorts of firms.

Law firm management was a more optimistic topic, with 74 per cent saying they felt better managed than five years ago and agreeing that financial management of legal practices had improved.

But managing partners and heads of chambers all felt that it was increasingly difficult to attract young talent, with 55 per cent of managing partners and heads of chambers saying it was becoming tougher to attract the best graduates.

The optimism findings chime with the results of Smith & Williamson’s annual law firm survey, where 96 per cent of respondents were confident about the coming year (17 November 2014).