Ethnic minority students less likely to secure legal opportunity and sponsorship, report finds

Ethnic minority students less likely to secure legal opportunity and sponsorship, report finds

The Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA) has published a report showing that white students are almost twice as likely to secure funding from a law firm for their professional qualifications compared to their ethnic minority counterparts.

Research conducted by the University of Exeter found that minority ethnic students often encounter discrimination and bias in educational settings and face challenges in securing work experience opportunities.

According to the report, 45% of white students had fees covered for their Legal practice Course (LPC) by their future firms, in comparison with 26% for black students and 24% for asian students. It also found that while 66% of white students secured a legal role after completing their LPC, compared to 45% and 43% for black and asian students respectively.

The report also pointed out that minority ethnic students often struggle to obtain funded support from law firms for their professional education and assessments. This is partly due to recruitment processes that are heavily relyiant on A-level results, without considering the broader context of students’ circumstances when achieving those grades.

SRA Chief Executive, Paul Philip, emphasised the urgency of addressing the imbalance. He said:

“A student’s ethnicity should not impact their opportunity to study law or secure a career in the legal profession, yet the evidence shows that it does. This is a wakeup call for the legal and education sectors to address a serious imbalance for minority ethnic students.”

Some other key findings from the report include:

  • Minority ethnic students are more likely to experience discrimination and bias, impacting their educational and professional opportunities
  • The lack of ethnic diversity among the academic staff and course content can diminish minority students’ sense of belonging in the field of law
  • Socioeconomic background and differing experiences in school and university play a crucial role in students’ abilities to secure legal work placements and succeed in professional assessments
  • High Education Statistics Agency data from 2022 shows that 60% of black students and 70% of asian students graduated with a 2.1 degree or higher, compared to 79% of white students.

The SRA is in plans to use the insights from the report to develop an action plan and convene education providers, law firms and other stakeholders to address the issues identified. Current initiatives to address these disparities are generally small-scale, and the report stresses the need for broader collaboration and significant action to achieve meaningful change.

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