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Becoming a solicitor - statistics

Trends in the solicitors’ profession

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) maintains records of students at each stage of their training from the point at which they enrol with the SRA as a student member. Records include performance on the Legal Practice Course, the registration of traineeships and admission to the roll of those who successfully complete their training. Details of the ethnic origin of students, as well as other biographic data, are sought at the time of enrolment. Students are not obliged to complete the question on their ethnicity but historically a high proportion of students have been prepared to do so.

This research helps the SRA to monitor the make up of those wanting to enter the profession.

Undergraduates and graduates in law

In 2007, 26,539 students applied to study law at undergraduate level in England and Wales. Out of these 17,702 (66.7 per cent) were accepted onto courses. Women made up 62.2 per cent of students accepted onto law courses. Overseas students made up 15.3 per cent of those accepted. Students from minority ethnic groups accounted for 31.3 per cent of those taking places on law degrees.

Student enrolments with the Law Society

Prior to embarking on the Legal Practice Course, or entering into a training contract, students must enrol with the SRA as student members. In the year up to 31 July 2008, 11,558 students enrolled with the SRA. Of these students, 7,361 were women, making up 63.7 per cent of the intake. 3,574 were drawn from minority ethnic groups making up 30.9 per cent.

The Legal Practice Course

The Legal Practice Course is the next stage towards qualification as a solicitor. In 2007-08, there were 10,675 full time and 3,064 part time places available on the Legal Practice Course with 9,662 students enrolling in total.

Training contracts

The training contract is the final hurdle in becoming a solicitor. It is a work-based training period, generally undertaken over two years, with a firm of solicitors. In the year ending 31 July 2008, 6,303 new traineeships were registered with the SRA. 63.4 per cent of these trainees were female. We have ethnicity data for over 88.1 per cent of these trainees. Trainees from minority ethnic groups represented 20.9 per cent of those with known ethnicity.

Admission to the roll

Once the qualifying law degree, the Legal Practice Course and the training period have been completed successfully, application can be made to the roll of solicitors of England and Wales, which entitles the applicant to practise as a solicitor.

7,861 individuals were admitted to the roll in the period 2007-08. 59.9 per cent of these were women.

1,567 solicitors admitted were from minority ethnic groups, a rise of 352 from the previous year. 59.9 per cent of those admitted from minority ethnic groups were female.

The average age of those entered onto the roll in 2007-08 was 28.7 years. There was little difference between the average ages of men and women qualifying by the same route, though male transfers in from other jurisdictions were over three years older on average than their female counterparts.

Solicitors on the roll

By virtue of the Solicitors Act 1974, the SRA is required to collect and maintain records of all qualified solicitors on the roll. As at 31 July 2008, there were 139,666 solicitors on the roll. Of these 76,497 (54.8 per cent) were men and 63,169 (45.2 per cent) were women. Solicitors from minority ethnic groups made up 10.7 per cent of solicitors on the roll (14,892).

In 2008, 112,433 solicitors held current practising certificates. 11,249 of those holding current practising certificates came from minority ethnic groups, 49,909 (44.4 per cent) were held by women and 62,524 (55.6 per cent) were held by men.

Source: Law Society’s annual statistical report, 2008