Privately educated lawyers are much more likely to become partners in Britain’s biggest corporate law firms, than their state-educated counterparts, according to new figures from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
The figures show that one-third (33 per cent) of lawyers working in corporate law firms went to private school, compared to just 13 per cent of lawyers working in criminal law, and 7 per cent of the UK population.
At the same time, 20 per cent of lawyers working in criminal law firms are from lower-socioeconomic backgrounds compared to 10 per cent of those working in corporate law firms.
The figures come as the pay gap between the corporate and criminal sectors continues to widen, as criminal law firms find themselves increasingly unable to match the salaries being paid out to corporate solicitors.
Privately educated lawyers are also more likely to rise to the top of law firms than their state-educated colleagues.
Notably, 26 per cent of law firm partners went to fee-paying schools – up from 25 per cent in 2019 – compared to 21 per cent of all solicitors.
Britain’s biggest law firms are also much more likely to employ privately educated lawyers, while small firms were more likely to employ state-educate lawyers.
Overall, 29 per cent of lawyers in firms with more than 50 partners went to independent schools, compared to just 16 per cent in smaller companies.
Britain’s biggest law firms are also less ethnically diverse than smaller ones, according to the figures, which show 8 per cent of lawyers working in firms with more than 50 partners are from ethnic minority backgrounds compared to 23 per cent in firms with two to five partners.
Corporate law firms are also less diverse than criminal ones, the figures show. Notably, 30 per cent of lawyers working in criminal firms compared to 18 per cent in corporate law firms are from ethnic minority backgrounds.