Law – Winning the case against discrimination

  • 35% of UK in-house lawyers from non-white ethnic backgrounds

7% of lawyers in the UK describe themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) according to legal recruiter Laurence Simons.

This research, which was published on the eve of Gay Pride in London, shows the UK’s legal profession is more diverse than the population as a whole.  Government figures put the gay population of the UK at 6%.

Naveen Tuli, managing director at Laurence Simons said, “It is great to see diversity of sexual orientation so strong within the UK’s legal sector.  Once upon a time, the law was seen as one of the stuffiest of professions.  This bodes well in terms of gay rights in the UK and for further progress and acceptance in the future. 

We think the numbers are so high because London is the unrivalled gay and lesbian capital of Europe and also the continent’s leading financial centre which attracts the largest law firms.  Traditionally law has been perceived as white, heterosexual and male – which put off LGBT applicants.  Times have changed and diversity is now a major watchword.  The profession knows it must attract the best talent from all walks of life and, as an industry, be representative of social demographics.”

Many modern large law firms run LGBT networking groups.  These provide opportunities for employees to meet and mix.  None of this existed ten years ago.  24 law firms entered Stonewall’s Corporate Equality Index as the best place to work for homosexual employees.  Indeed, four made the top ten. 

Jason Horobin, director at Laurence Simons said, “Not only are firms actively recruiting and encouraging LGBT employees, thanks to organisations such as the InterLaw Diversity Forum for LGBT Networks, gay lawyers now have a voice.  This has all helped make the legal profession much more attractive to this demographic.  The results are clear.


The research also shows 35% of the in-house lawyer workforce in the UK is now made up of ethnic minorities.


The figures underline the advances made by the industry, particularly within in-house legal departments, in recent years.  As recently as 2003, ethnic minority groups accounted for just 10.7% of Practising Barristers and 7.9% of Practising Solicitors in England and Wales.

Legal firms and businesses have increased the levels of diversity among their employee base, as initiatives such as Diversity League Table, produced by the Black Solicitors Network, have helped to set an agenda for change in the profession.  Calls by government bodies such as the Legal Services Consultative Panel in 2005 for firms to publish information on race and gender have been a further key driver.

While the latest figures show that overall representation has improved, ethnic minorities still only make up just over 3 per cent of those at partner level in the UK’s top 100 law firms, according to the latest Diversity League Table[3].  This figure actually decreased marginally from 3.65% in 2008 to 3.53% in 2009.

Jason Horobin said, “These figures should serve to dispel external views of the legal profession in the UK as a white male dominated environment.  There are more ethnic minorities working in private practice and in-house than ever before, led by very strong representation in-house. This is a consequence of calls by industry and government for diversity and transparency in the legal community.”

White 65%
Asian 15%
Black 8%
Mixed 3%
Other 9%

He added, “But it’s not all good news for the UK profession.  Black and Asian people are still woefully underrepresented in the higher levels of some of the largest and most prestigious law firms.  And while it is great to see more ethnic diversity in the profession as a whole, it is much less evident amongst the partners of many of the UK’s top private firms and there is even evidence that the industry is moving backwards in this respect.  Firms must do more to create legitimate opportunities for ethnic minorities in the upper echelons of the profession.”


The rise is partly due to an increase in the number of ethnic minority groups enrolled in legal training.  The Law Society and The Bar Council each highlight that since 2003, around 20% of their trainees and those on pupillages have come from an ethnic minority background.


But the rise in “home grown” domestic talent only tells half the story.  The increase in ethnic minority representation has also been driven by the growing number of international lawyers finding work in the UK.  Only 66% of in-house lawyers surveyed working in Britain are British, with a substantial proportion migrating from other parts of Europe and 6% describing themselves as African or Asian.

Naveen Tuli, “The six per cent of lawyers working in Britain who were born in Africa and Asia are boosting the numbers of black and asian lawyers – it’s not all about home-grown talent.  It would be far better if we were to ensure the British legal system has solid, lasting foundations for the future by fostering black British candidates.”

UK 66%
Western Europe 12%
Eastern Europe 8%
North America 5%
Africa 3%
Asia 3%
Australia / New Zealand 3%

– ENDS –



Founded in 1988, Laurence Simons is a specialist legal recruitment consultancy.  It is an international organisation, operating across 12 cities and 4 continents and has recruited in 55 countries.

Laurence Simons covers the whole spectrum of permanent and temporary legal positions in both the Private Practice and In–House markets from Newly Qualified through to Partner and General Counsel level roles. 


Adam Nicoll, Head of Marketing – FiveTen Group

020 7858 2030 and

James Staunton, Head of Recruitment PR – The Wriglesworth Consultancy

020 7427 1404 /

[1] UK Treasury and Department of Trade and Industry (2005)

[2] Law Society Annual Reports (2003-2009)

Bar Council Annual Reports (2003-2009)

[3] Black Solicitors’ Network, Diversity League Table 2009: The Results


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