Diversity statistics in the magic circle: what do they hide?

December 22, 2010 Large law firms ever keen to establish that they are hiring an ethnically diverse range of lawyers, and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is no exception: the firm has announced that a quarter of its new trainees are from black and ethnic minority (BME) backgrounds. Similar diversity figures are produced by rival firms Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Linklaters and Slaughter and May.

And while the London legal profession can rightly claim that BME lawyers make up 9.2% of the City legal profession as a whole (a figure significantly higher than the 7.9% of the UK population who come from those ethnic backgrounds) statistics that break these figures down into ethnic groups reveal that there is not quite so much ‘diversity’ as one would have thought.

Law Society statistics show a relative over-representation of lawyers from Asian and Chinese backgrounds (who make up a respective 4.4% and 1.2% of all City lawyers, relative to 4% and 0.4% of the general population) and an under-representation of black lawyers (who make up 1.2% of all City lawyers, relative to 2% of the general population).

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