Friday, July 31, 2015

GENDER INEQUALITY: Scots legal profession in the dock over unfair pay as Law Society research reveals 42% difference in salaries between male & female lawyers

Women in Scots legal world paid less than male solicitors. WOMEN in Scotland's legal profession are being paid significantly less than their male counterparts, with the sector lagging behind other occupations in tackling the pay gap.

Research published by the Law Society of Scotland shows that today marks the point at which some female solicitors begin effectively working for free in comparison to their male colleagues as a result of the disparities.

The findings, published as a think tank warned of a general widening pay gap north of the border, show that the average salary for women in the legal profession is 42 per cent lower than for men, with females earning an average of £32,650 less.

The extent to which salaries of female solicitors lag behind male counterparts – in what has been for years viewed as a boys club world of Scots law firms, must now be tackled head on and a parity must be reached on salaries between equally hard working female solicitors and their male colleagues.

Commenting on the research published by the Law Society, a senior lawyer agreed there was a gender pay gap between male & female solicitors.

He said: “The matter of gender inequality on salaries and – equally importantly - partnership status within law firms must now be addressed to bring the legal profession in line with what we preach to others.”

However, the lawyer said transparency on gender pay must also apply to the institutions of the profession itself – naming the Law Society of Scotland as one example.

Commenting on the position of the Law Society, the senior lawyer said: “Given the Law Society has published this research I am sure the profession and equally the public would like to know how the gender inequality gap affects women working within the Law Society of Scotland as an institution.”

He continued: “Today must also mark the point where the Law Society of Scotland publish the full salaries and expenses of their department directors and senior staff including current Chief Executive Lorna Jack.”

Citing an example of the Law Society’s English Chief Executive, he said: “The £400,000 salary of former Law Society of England & Wales Chief Exeutive Des Hudson was published without difficulty while we as a profession and the public remain in the dark about hefty salaries at the Law Society of Scotland and, I am told, lavish air travel and hotel expenses claims.”

It is rumoured salaries an expenses claims of senior Law Society of Scotland staff and directors have significantly increased over the past decade, with little accountability or transparency.

The solicitor membership who pay annual subscriptions are given little say on Law Society of Scotland salaries and expenses claims – unlike public bodies which have to publish salary scales and hand over detailed information on expenses when requested to do so.

The Law Society’s news release on the gender pay gap in the legal profession:

Tackling the gender pay gap - 42% difference between male and female solicitors 31 July 2015

For some female solicitors, Friday, 31 July marks the point after which they are effectively working for free until the end of the year.

Law Society of Scotland research shows a 42 percent gender pay gap among its members. The figure has been reached through comparing average full time and full time equivalent (for part time/flexible hours employees) salaries for women and men at all career stages.

Janet Hood, convener of the Law Society of Scotland’s Equality and Diversity committee, said: “A 42 percent gender pay gap reflects very badly on what is otherwise a modern and forward thinking profession – with some female solicitors effectively working for free for five months of the year.

“There are many and nuanced reasons why the gender pay gap exists, and the legal profession is certainly not alone – figures from November 2014 show that the overall UK gap was 9.4%. However we have seen little change in the past decade compared to other professions such as accountancy or dentistry so it is a major concern that such a substantial gap persists 45 years after the UK Equal Pay Act and after a decade of Law Society equality research and promoting good practice within the legal profession.

“Quite simply it is not something we can afford to ignore, for either ethical or business reasons.

“Women now represent half the legal profession in Scotland and there should be no limit set on their talent and ambition.

“Employers have legal responsibilities in relation to equality as well as any commercial considerations. They need to be aware of the extent of the gender pay gap within their own organisations and take action to ensure that they meet their obligations and, importantly, work to retain talented individuals who can help their businesses thrive now and in the future.

“Many government and other organisations sourcing legal services also include equality criteria as part of their tendering processes. If law firms are not taking steps to ensure that they are meeting these, they could be adversely affected.”

The Law Society published equality standards, which are currently voluntary, earlier this year. The 10 standards set out that employers should publish an annual statement about the composition of organisational roles, reporting on gender as a minimum, and for organisations with more than 150 staff, publish pay gap figures for full-time and part-time staff at each level of seniority. The Society has also published an equal pay toolkit to help firms do this. 

Ms Hood added: “We introduced the 10 equality standards and the equality toolkit following strong support from the profession for a more prescriptive set of standards to complement our other equality guides. With so many women now entering the solicitors’ profession, it is essential that we continue in our efforts to reduce the gender pay gap and to monitor this generation of solicitors as they progress in their careers.

“I hope that publishing the gender pay gap figures and making them a discussion point will help empower people to ask questions and stimulate further change – and that in another decade we will not see such a significant pay gap between male and female solicitors.”

The research by the Law Society of Scotland has shown that the average gender pay gap within Scotland’s legal profession at specific stages ranges from 2% to 38% and affects solicitors working in private practice law firms and those working in house for other organisations. The findings have shown that in the earlier stages of solicitors’ careers, there is very little difference between male and female solicitors’ earnings. However from age 36 onwards, women generally appear to be paid lower salaries than men of the same age, with women are more prevalent in the salary bands up to £65,000 and men more prevalent in salary bands over £65,000.

The research findings have also shown that women tend to remain associates or assistants rather than be promoted to partner level. While the findings suggest that there is very little direct discrimination in terms of women being paid less for directly equivalent roles and experience, there appears to be an issue around assumptions made about women, with the report indicating that women earn less than their male counterparts whether or not they have children.

In the later stages of a solicitor’s career, the research indicates that there is less of a gap at 32% for solicitors who have been qualified for 21-30 years, and 21% for those qualified 31+ years.  However, this is in large part due to lower male earnings in these age groups, rather than increased pay for women

The research has indicated that career breaks longer than six months are a significant barrier to career progression. Many respondents also considered that part-time working was detrimental to a person’s career, for both males and females, even in firms that were supportive and accommodating of flexible working arrangements.

Some findings have been more encouraging. In comparison to the 2005 Women in the Legal Profession in Scotland report, there appears to have been a move towards childcare responsibilities being viewed as a joint responsibility rather than solely a mother’s responsibility. Women are still largely expected to take time off when a child is sick, although the gap here has also narrowed slightly.

The Law Society plans to publish a series of guides later this year for solicitors returning to work following a period of maternity, paternity or adoption leave and is currently seeking views from solicitors on their return to work experiences.

The Law Society of Scotland has over 11,000 practising solicitor members. As part of its work on equality and diversity within the legal profession the Law Society launched equality standards in February 2015. The UK Government also passed legislation in 2015 that requires larger employers across all sectors to publish gender pay gap figures.

The full equality and diversity research findings are available on the Law Society of Scotland website:

Profile of the profession

We have now launched the findings of the Profile of the Profession. We would like to thank each and every one of the 3,449 solicitors in Scotland who took time to respond to this research. We are very grateful for your time, and this has helped us ensure a statistically meaningful set of results can be published.

We are now moving to the next stage of the project, which involves confidential focus groups and phone interviews to explore some themes from the research in more detail.  For information and the opportunity to volunteer to be involved, please click here.

You can access the full research report and we'd encourage you to look at the executive summary at the start as well as chapters that may hold detail of particular interest.

Slides from launch event are also available.

We also launched updated guidance to help firms tackle some of the issues the research covered. These can be found online by clicking the links below:

Free online leaning has also been made available around some key equality issues. For example, there is an online learning package onbullying and harassment, for firms and for individuals, and have online learning to support making your firm or services to be more accessible to disabled people.

Finally, we're also keen to support solicitors understand these issues. We're delighted to attend or support the preparation of in-house CPD in larger firms and in-house employers. Likewise, we'd be delighted to visit faculties or local CPD groups, or recommend speakers on this topic. You are also welcome to discuss issues with us in private.

For further details on any of the above, please contact

This page will also give you details of:
  1. Why did we do the research?

  2. Who are the researchers and what is the level of confidentiality?

1. Why did we do the research?

This work will update our previous diversity research and quantify how the profile of our members has changed over the last six years. The research also seeks to collect valuable information on current working patterns across the profession and explore views and experiences of a range of equality-related issues. This is a vital project, and helps us respond to government and stakeholders who challenge the profession, as well as help tackle issues our members face. To best serve our members we also need to understand you, who you are, how you prefer to work, and importantly, be able to identify any equality or discrimination issues so that we can address these quickly and effectively.

Previous research led to work to combat bullying, a challenge to improve equal pay, and changes to policy for those entering the profession. Ensuring a large response is critical to guaranteeing the data truly represents our members.

The project was developed by our Equality and Diversity Committee and had been approved by our Board and Council as part of our Equality and Diversity Strategy.

2. Who are the researchers and what is the level of confidentiality?

The survey is anonymous and being administered by an independent research consultancy, MVA Consultancy, who adhere to the Market Research Society's Code of Conduct, and will ensure that your participation and responses are treated confidentially.

The Society will only be provided with a statistical summary and an anonymous report.  Although some of the questions may seem rather personal or sensitive in nature, we need this information both to meet our legal commitments under the equalities legislation and to monitor diversity within the profession.

3. How to find out about findings from previous studies?

All our previous work in this field is available to solicitors and the public from our website.

Our main statistical research includes:

Women in the Profession

In 2005 we examined issues around gender, equal pay and career progression in the profession.

Profile of the Profession

In 2006 we broadened our focus, looking at a wider range of areas, covering all of what are now called the 'protected characteristics'. This research also looked at perceptions around equality in the profession and in the incidence of discrimination and harassment.

Robust Foundations - Changes in Law Society Membership

In 2010 we updated our data on 'protected characteristics' by working with the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland on research they were doing and sharing the anonymous data. This gave us a second data set. Our new research will give us three reference points, allowing us for the first time to truly comment on emerging trends (rather than providing 'snap shot' data).

Two other pieces of research, both qualitative, have also been carried out in this field:

Preventing Bullying and Harassment - 2011

This drew on the statistical data from previous research on bullying, and used interviews and focus groups to assemble typical 'case studies' of the issues faced by lawyers and then developed materials for tackling these.

The experiences of ethnic minority background solicitors in Scotland

This work also followed previous statistical findings which suggested that despite increasing numbers of solicitors coming from an ethnic minority background, they were significantly less likely to be equity partners than their white colleagues. Interviews explored the issues around this.

Working patterns in the legal profession

Equal pay toolkit – Ensuring fairness, closing the pay gap  The table below shows the average annual salary for each year qualified. It represents full time or full time equivalent earnings (part time actual earnings are calculated on a pro-rata basis to give the full time equivalent). 

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