The legal profession has been singled out as too socially exclusive by a U.K. government report on fair access to professions.
The report, compiled by a panel chaired by former cabinet minister Alan Milburn, calls on occupations such as lawyers and doctors to widen access to their professions after becoming increasingly more exclusive in recent decades.
The report found that of all professions in the U.K., lawyers typically grew up in the best-off families, with lawyers born in 1970 brought up in families with income 64 percent higher than the national average.
The reports also highlighted the fact that the overwhelming majority of judges, barristers and solicitors are educated independently, with 75 percent of judges falling into that category, against a national average of 7 percent.
In the report, Milburn says: “Despite the narrowing of the gender pay gap, the top professional jobs still tend to go to men not women. Despite increasing numbers of people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds in professional jobs, many professions are still unrepresentative of the modern society they serve. And most alarmingly of all there is strong evidence, given to the panel, that the U.K.’s professions have become more, not less, socially exclusive over time.”
Among the recommendations made by the report were that universities should focus more on recruiting people from wider socioeconomic backgrounds by offering no-fee degrees to stay-at-home students or free accommodation to certain students.
Law Society president Paul Marsh said: “Law firms have been making giant strides to open up access to the solicitors’ profession, and with their help the Law Society has recently launched the diversity and inclusion charter, which provides a framework of commitment to all aspects of diversity. The profession’s collective efforts to become more accessible were recognized by Bridget Prentice at the recent Law Society Parliamentary Reception and we are continuing our work with solicitors to deliver a truly diverse and inclusive legal profession.”