Skip to main content

Legal Professionals

Volume 614: debated on Tuesday 6 September 2016

8. What information her Department holds on the level of social mobility and social diversity within the legal professions. (906062)

That information is published by the legal professions. For example, 13% of QCs are women, and 6% declare themselves as coming from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background.

Available data show very limited progress, particularly with only 13% of QCs and only a third of the people practising at the Bar being women. What can the Government do to improve that and rattle up the profession a bit?

We want a justice system that works for everyone and a legal services industry that uses all the talent in our country. I have already had very positive conversations with the Lord Chief Justice, who is keen to improve diversity figures in the judiciary, and I am due to meet the Bar Council shortly to talk specifically about the Bar.

What assessment has my right hon. Friend made of opportunities to increase apprenticeship-based routes into the legal professions and prison services to increase social mobility?

I am a huge fan of apprenticeships. The new apprenticeship levy brings a big opportunity for some of our large legal services firms, and right across the board, to increase the number of apprenticeships. I will certainly be talking to those firms about that over the coming months.

At one London provider of legal education, fees for the academic year ahead are as follows: nearly £11,000 for the graduate diploma in law; more than £15,000 for the legal practice course; and near to £19,000 for the Bar professional training course. That is on top of the cost of university education. Such fees are beyond the reach of many people from ordinary backgrounds. Given that reality, how will the Minister ensure a diverse legal profession?

I have been discussing this matter right across the legal profession. At the younger end we are seeing a lot more diversity; the question is how people progress through the pipeline. I would like more transparency so that we can look at people moving through the system. I have no doubt that the Lord Chief Justice and leading judges want to see more diversity. They are very keen to work with me on this agenda.