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Employment Lawyer Kiran Daurka discusses 'sticky floors and glass ceilings - diversity in the legal profession'

Recent research published by the Law Society finds that of the solicitors who had experienced some form of unlawful Discrimination, 64% had stated that it was Sex Discrimination, 20% contributed it to Age Discrimination and a further 20% said Race Discrimination.  

Interestingly, 19% of solicitors experiencing discrimination felt that it was related to their social class. Class is quite a difficult concept to capture and define and this is not presently an unlawful ground of discrimination. Most probably however, non-white solicitors are more likely to fall within the “working class” or to have attended non-fee paying schools in comparison to white contemporaries as second generation immigrants break into the legal profession following their parents who undertook manual and skilled jobs.   

So, how surprising are these statistics? Unfortunately, not very. Over recent years, the statistics have consistently shown that there are representative numbers of ethnic minority solicitors and women solicitors entering the profession. However, these same figures are not translated to the top positions in most law firms.  

In 2011, women made up 46% of all solicitors with practicing certificates, but only 6.8% of partners.  

Also, in 2011, 16% of all trainees in the Diversity League Table were from ethnic minority backgrounds, compared with 11% of associates but making up only 5% of partners. So for ethnic minority solicitors, it seems the analogy of a “sticky floor” is more appropriate than the “glass ceiling”.

More needs to be done to ensure that there is equality and diversity from bottom to top in law firms. This should include a more thorough analysis in each firm as to its own make-up and what barriers might be in place to prevent certain groups from getting up off the sticky floor and breaking through those glass ceilings. 

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