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Number of solicitors employed by local government fell 3.3% in 2011/12

The number of solicitors employed by local government fell 3.3% in 2011/12, the Law Society’s annual statistical review (ASR) has revealed.

According to the ASR for 2012, which was published this week, there were 4,509 practising certificate holders in the sector as at 31 July last year.

This is down from the previous year (4,665), but still higher than for 2009 (4,372) and 2007 (4,018).

The review reported that women solicitors accounted for 65.9% (or 2,970) of the total number of PC holders in local government.

It also revealed that the number of trainee placements in local government held broadly steady in 2011/12 at 60. The figure for the previous year was 57. However, in 2007 there were 105 trainees working for local authorities.

This is also against a backdrop where there were 10.51% fewer training contracts registered across the profession as a whole (2011/12: 4,869; 2010/11: 5,441).

Other findings of note from the 2012 review included:

  • The number of private practice firms fell from 10,202 to 10,102;
  • There were 128,778 solicitors with practising certificates, up 5.61%. However, the number of PC holders linked to a named organisation increased by just 0.25%. This is the smallest increase since 1996;
  • The number of solicitors working in private practice firms registered in England and Wales declined, for the first time since records began in 1971. Since 1982 the number of private practitioners has increased by 156% at an average annual rate of 3.2%;
  • Other employment sectors in addition to local government to experience a significant decline in numbers were the Crown Prosecution Service (down 7.5%) and the advice service sector (down 5%);
  • Growth areas within the legal sector were commerce and industry (up 5.2% at 14,691) and employment in foreign law practices and as locums (14.2% at 4,079).

Desmond Hudson, Law Society chief executive, said: “There is fiercer competition in the legal market than ever before and many of the assumptions that have underpinned the nature and status of practising as a lawyer are being challenged in this difficult environment. 

“Tough economic conditions combined with legal services liberalisation, changes to legal aid funding and the civil costs regime are having a major impact on the business models of many firms.”