The number of solicitors employed in the local government sector rose almost 4% in the year to 31 July 2014, the Law Society’s Annual Statistical Review has revealed.
According to the report, there were 4,640 practising certificate holders working for local authorities at that date – up from 4,467 at 31 July 2013.
The total was close to the peak in 2011, when there were 4,665 PC holders in the sector.
The rise in council solicitors comes at a time when the sector has been hit by significant cuts in government funding. Demand for legal services across a range of practice areas remains high, however.
Female solicitors accounted for more than two thirds (71% or 3,163) of the total employed by local government (up from 66%).
The report meanwhile showed continued volatility in the number of trainee placements on offer in the sector.
This year’s report reveals there were 75 such placements in local government, down from 90 the previous year. This is still a higher number than in 2011/12 (60 placements) and in 2010/11 (57).
Elsewhere in the public sector, the ASR 2014 revealed that there were 437 PC holders working in educational establishments and 73 in health services.
Other key findings included:
- The number of practising solicitors overall rose 2.1% compared to 2013 to 130,382. This compares to a fall in the previous year;
- Representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic groups among practising solicitors stood at 15%. This is more than double the number in 2000;
- 51.8% of practising solicitors were men and 48.2% were women;
- The number of practising solicitors grew both in-house and in private practice. An increase of 4% in solicitors registered in private practice was the sharpest rate of growth in nine years;
- The number of private practice firms declined for the fourth consecutive year;
- There was a 6% drop in the number of training contracts registered.
President of Lawyers in Local Government Bev Cullen said: “Given the stringent austerity biting hard on local authority legal departments across the land these figures show just how resilient and creative local government lawyers are. For we’re at the forefront of innovative legal practice, with ABS entities, shared services and so many other ways of extracting maximum value from minimum resources for the benefit of our authorities and communities.
“So for anyone looking for an exciting and stimulating career that will enable them to be the best they can be, then look no further than local government.”
Law Society chief executive Catherine Dixon said: “It is encouraging that the legal services market is back in the business of hiring after a rocky few years, although we know that some areas such as publicly-funded legal advice are likely to remain challenging.
“The legal landscape is changing and diversity is improving, but there is still a gender and ethnicity gap for partner positions. Through our Diversity and Inclusion Charter, and by working closely with law firms, we aim to support the profession to share best practice and demonstrate that good diversity, inclusion and social mobility policies actually give a competitive advantage.”