This month the Law Society of England and Wales has published its annual statistics report for 2017. The report offers a comprehensive account of the make up of the solicitors’ profession, providing data not just on solicitors in private practice, but also on those employed in-house.
The report advises that as at 31 July 2017:
- There were 181,968 individuals on the Roll of solicitors, up from 175,160 the previous year and representing an increase of 3.9%;
- There were 139,624 solicitors with practising certificates (and therefore entitled to act as a solicitor within the definition of the Solicitors Act 1974), an increase of 2.4% on the previous year and an increase of almost 30% since 2007;
- There were 93,155 solicitors working in private practice, compared to 91,166 solicitors in 2016. These represented 66.7% of all practising certificate holders;
- There were 9,488 private practice firms registered in England & Wales, a modest increase on the 9,430 firms recorded the previous year. This growth came exclusively from an increase in the number of sole practitioners;
- Sole practitioners represented the largest category of private practice firm at 45%, with the second largest category being 2-4 partner firms at 41%. The smallest category was firms with 81+ partner at 0.6%;
- The number of practising certificate holders working in-house was 42,215, representing 30.2% of all certificate holders. Of these, 18,766 (representing 13.4% of all certificate holders) were employed in commerce and industry;
- For the first time ever, the number of female practising certificate holders (69,995) has exceeded the number of male certificate holders (69,629); and
- The number of black, Asian and minority ethnic groups amongst practising certificate holders has also risen to 16.5% in 2017, up from 16% in 2016 and up from 7% at the start of the millennium.
The report also records that for 2015/16 turnover for the profession totalled £23.1 billion, of which £9.64 billion (41.7%) was generated by those firms with 81+ partners.
Overall, the report indicates that the profession remains in reasonable health and has not yet reached the point of saturation feared by many. However, the impact on growth of Brexit in the near future, and AI and technology in the longer term, remain to be seen. As does the impact of consolidation within the profession, a trend which seems likely to continue, particularly in the highly competitive mid-tier sector.
A copy of the full report is available from the Law Society, priced at £99.