Black Solicitors Network ranks most diverse UK top 50 law firms

Trowers & Hamlins has been named as the most diverse law firm in the UK top 50, according to the Black Solicitors Network (BSN) tenth annual diversity league table.

Regional firm Freeths was named as the most diverse law firm in the UK by the BSN, but the firm is too small to rank in Legal Week‘s top 50 UK firms

Linklaters came first in the rankings for the top 10 City firms.

Thirty six firms participated in the research, which asked firms about their black and minority ethnic (BME) and gender diversity policies and practice and how many of their lawyers identify as female and/or as BME. The BSN then awards firms what it calls a diversity quotient figure, calculated using that information.

Paul Robinson, head of HR at Trowers, attributed the firm’s high ranking to its approach to hiring trainees, which he said “ensured that those from less traditional educational backgrounds had a chance to progress”.

The findings show that there is a disparity between female and BME lawyers in junior roles and those who make it to senior positions.

Only 12.4% of QCs and 27.5% of partners are women, despite the fact that 44% of pupils and 60.8% of trainees are women.

Also 5.5% of QCs and 8.6% of partners are BME, but 20.5% of pupils and 22.7% of trainees are BME.

The report found that in the last ten years, law firms have only made small improvements to the level of diversity of their lawyers.

In 2006, the diversity league table found that 3.7% partners were from an ethnic minority, this year it found this had increased to 6.1% of partners – a increase of only 2.4 percentage points.

The proportion of female partners has increased by a similarly small amount from 22% in 2006 to 25.3% this year.

The report also found that firms have a long way to go in terms of promoting black lawyers to senior positions. Black people currently make up only 0.7% of partners and 1.5% of QCs, but comprise 3.3% of the population of England and Wales according to the Office for National Statistics.

profile-courtenay-griffithsqcFirst-hand experience
Courtenay Griffiths QC, who was born in Jamaica and moved to England aged 5, is a defence barrister who has been involved in some of the most high profile cases of the last 35 years – including the Brighton bombing and the first Damilola Taylor murder trial.

In an interview with the BSN he said: “When we come to the more lucrative commercial, chancery, patent areas, the Bar has basically remained unchanged – white, public school and Oxbridge.”

He added: “When you think about the number of black people doing law degrees now, I don’t think the problem is their ambitions as to what they can achieve. The problem now is not understanding how to play the game.”