By John Parkin • October 03, 2017•Ms. JD, Conference
After many years of combat by the Universities, the Law Society, the Bar council and the Law schools the gender balance has been achieved with a current 49/51 split in the sexes entering the legal professions whether it be in the solicitors or the barrister ranks. However, the percentages change rapidly after a few years in the professions, from 25 to 40 years of age and do not recover after a period of time. Indeed, the female percentage of current judges is below 25%. What are the reasons behind these two factors?
The falloff in women in the legal professions in the 26 to 40 age group can be simply explained by it being the time in a woman’s life when they can and have their children. It is totally understandable that some women would want to stay at home in order to bring up their kids. It is also very understandable that some women would want to return to their legal profession. However, if you compare it to other professions and careers the percentage of women returning to work is much higher than in the legal professions. Just why is this? Is it because the facilities for returning mothers are not up to scratch? Is it because the Law moves on and it is impossible for women to remain up to date because of the volume of new law that is enacted or ongoing case law? Most people would argue that the facilities for young mothers, especially in the larger personal injury law firms are excellent and are the equal if not better than in other sectors of the work place. The argument that the law moves on too fast for someone to keep up with it after a break does not stand up well at all as most people in the legal profession in one area of the law which cuts down dramatically the possible back log in new law.
So, what is it the stops women coming back into the law professions in their thirties and forties? Could it be that when you look at the gender of the senior partners in law firms and the judges on the bench that you have difficulty in finding women in the top positions? There are currently only around one in four judges who are female and as far as senior partners are concerned that unless a woman started the partnership they are few and far between. Could it be that there is discrimination in the legal professions against women? Clearly there is a problem here and the UK Law Society Gazette published an article in September 2017 stating that it will be at least twenty years before there will be anything approaching parity.
If you go back a hundred years the legal professions in these islands were the domain of the white middle class to the quasi exclusion of the white lower classes and all ethnic minorities. The ethnic minorities stood for the people that had come from other countries to live in these islands. In Northern Ireland the ethnic minority was those of the Roman Catholic faith. Their solution to the problem of discrimination in the Law professions was education and so good were the ethnic minority in taking on board education that today well over seventy percent of solicitors in Northern Ireland to today are practicing Roman Catholics. Here lies the solution and it is in education. In the UK they have been very good in spreading diversity into the legal professions and according to recent figures and that the current percentage of white solicitors will fall to 72% from 84% and Asian solicitors will rise from 8% to 16%, ethnic Caribbean solicitors will rise from 2.5% to 4% and ethnic Chinese from 1.5% to 3.0%, all these percentages are changes in the next twenty years. Some success has been achieved but more education is needed!
Lisa Rogers writes for Gary Matthews personal injury solicitors in all areas of law that affects European issues in the legal space in her spare time she is a lover of writing and languages speaking over 5 different languages.