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Working class solicitors could struggle to get promoted

working class home

A study from The Bridge Group, an organisation which researches and promotes socio-economic diversity, found that solicitors from less prosperous backgrounds are struggling to climb the career ladder. The report suggests that one of the main reasons for this is because they are trying too hard to fit into the culture that dominates the industry. For example, by toning down their accents.

And while the group have reported that there have been growing efforts to increase diversity amongst those entering the legal industry, there is little being documented on how many stay within the sector, whether they do well in their career and how they’ve managed to climb the ladder. We look at the findings in more detail below.

Less prosperity, less progression

The Bridge Group interviewed current and former employees of a number of magic circle and international firms. They analysed the data, amounting to over 3,000 participants. From this, they found that over half of UK solicitors in the early stage of their career attended states schools. What’s more, over a quarter of those (28%) were the first people in their family to study at university.

It became clear from the data that those from less prosperous and lower socio-economic backgrounds are amongst the highest performers. Despite this, they are less likely to progress within their firm. The respondents suggested that this is because hiring professionals and employers tend to recruit and promote the solicitors that share similarities to those currently ruling the profession.

As a result, those that get ahead tend to be extroverts who are confident and charismatic. This has an impact on those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, who often adjust their behaviour to try and fit in. This might mean being more careful with their speech, adjusting their accent or pretending to show interest in topics typically associated with higher classes.

What impact does this have on them? Well, they will find themselves being increasingly cautious, manifesting as a lack of character or confidence. Trying to fit in also becomes exhausting and can leave them afraid to reveal their true self.

What can be done to help working class solicitors?

The problems stems from centuries of outdated perceptions about what a legal professional should be, namely higher class white men. And the findings of this research prove that there needs to be more engagement from senior members of staff when it comes to diversity in the workplace.

What’s more, The Bridge Group suggests that firms need to ensure their networking and social events aren’t excluding certain groups. It also recommends that firms get their workforce diversity data analysed by an outside party.

The fact that so many big-name firms took place in the study is testament to the desire of those in the industry to support diversity in the legal sector. That said, there is clearly still plenty of work to be done to help working class solicitors.

If you are looking for further opportunities, then give us a call.  We work with lots of different legal firms, and can identify the one that is a good match.

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