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Family lawyers “disproportionately female and white”

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Three-quarters of family lawyers are women, while those from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are under-represented, ground-breaking research among members of Resolution has indicated.

It identified very few Muslim members, while family lawyers were older than the wider solicitor population.

The first ever diversity survey by the family lawyers’ group was based on responses from over 3,000 of its 6,500 members,

It said the finding that only 24% of members were male confirmed the “received wisdom” that this is a predominantly female area of practice.

However, researchers said there was an absence of other publicly available statistics to compare the findings against and Resolution had contacted the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) requesting it to share its data.

“Without those statistics it’s impossible to say whether our membership reflects the sector.”

A big majority of respondents were solicitors (75%), with legal executives making up 8%, finance professionals 4.5%, barristers 3% and mediators 2.7%.

The survey found that over 86% of family lawyers were white, in line with the figure for the UK workforce; however, the most recent SRA research (from 2017) said 21% of solicitors in private practice were from a BAME background.

The report described Resolution members as “disproportionately white”.

In terms of religion, compared with the population of all lawyers, Muslims were most underrepresented in the Resolution membership, as were Hindus, Buddhists and Jews “to a lesser extent”

Only 73 members (less than 2.4% of the sample) gave their religious affiliation as Muslim, compared to 77 who said they were Jewish and 76 Hindu.

According to the SRA’s figures, there is a higher proportion of Muslim solicitors (8%) than in the UK workforce (5%).

Resolution members were more likely to have no religion or identify as atheist than other solicitors or workers in the UK. A slender majority said they were Christian (53%), compared to the third (33%) saying they had no religion.

When it came to sexual orientation, family lawyers were more diverse than their colleagues in other branches of the profession, with 54 describing themselves as gay men, 35 as bisexual with 34 gay women or lesbians.

Researchers commented: “The sexual orientation of Resolution’s membership reflects that of the UK population.”

Family lawyers were also more likely to have attended a state school (73.5%) in the UK than other lawyers and much less likely to have been educated abroad.

Confusingly they were also more likely to have attended a private school in the UK than other lawyers.

Researchers said this result was “skewed because they are far less likely to have been educated outside the UK than the rest of the lawyer population regulated by the SRA” – a tenth of all solicitors were educated outside the UK, compared to 3.5% of Resolution members.

The proportion of family lawyers who said they were disabled (7.5%) was higher than solicitors in general, although lower than the figure for the UK workforce.

The most common disability mentioned was lack of mobility (25%), followed by mental illness (15%) and deafness (14%).

Family lawyers who replied to the survey were older than other lawyers, with only 20% aged between 25 and 34, compared to 29% of all lawyers.

A third of members said they were the primary carer of a child or children under the age of 18.

Researchers concluded that the survey results showed that Resolution should consider, among other things, increasing the number of younger and ethnic minority members.

The association said it would use the survey evidence to develop a diversity strategy.

“This will include the development of a diversity policy and then an action plan. Once an action plan has been implemented, we will use this data as a benchmark so that we can measure the success (or not) of the action we’ve taken.”

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