The legal press is abuzz with the latest whizzy new survey compiled by Laurence Simons. The survey has examined the schools that lawyers attended, found that loads went to public schools and screamed the following conclusion: "LEGAL PROFESSION'S ELITISM GAP WIDES".
The headline figure is that 15% of lawyers attended the UK's 250 public schools, compared to just 2% of the general population. This - according to the recruiters that last year told the world university was an expensive waste of time
- reveals that social mobility is FAILING and law is becoming ever more elitist. Which apparently can be mostly blamed on the "growing focus on degrees" and the decline of grammar schools.
Stark stuff. But as with any survey, desperate for a spot in the
headlines (which Laurence Simons has certainly achieved with this one),
is there possibly an element of sensationalism here? Let's have a gander
at the methodology.
||Some scientific research yesterday
Laurence Simons says it reached its conclusions by combing through the LinkedIn profiles of 49,600 "professionals" working in London. Yes, that's LinkedIn. You know, that site you signed up to four years ago and haven't really checked again since? I'd wager you probably don't even remember your password. A spokesman for Wriglesworth Consultancy (which is pimping out the survey) said that the data was extracted by searching the networking site for the names of public schools and then trawling through the corresponding profiles for lawyers.
The survey identifies 7,200 "professionals" (I'll assume this means lawyers, although it's not specified) who attended public school, which equates to 14.5% of the 49,600 . Which, says Laurence Simons, means that a public school alumnus is "seven times more likely to become legal professional
" than someone educated at a state school.
This had RollOnFriday mathematicians scratching their heads. First of all, there are currently 128,240 lawyers practising in England and Wales. Only 49,600 lawyers' profiles have been checked, just 39% of the legal population. Secondly, in the spirit of Laurence Simons'
scientific research, I conducted a quick check of my LinkedIn contacts, many from back in my days as a City lawyer, and not one of them, NOT ONE, has entered details of their school. Mostly as we've passed the stage of asking each other what we got in our A-Levels.
This is certainly not to deny that there is a problem with social mobility in the legal profession. Of course there is. As is the case for so many professions. Lawyers probably take their responsibilities in this sphere more seriously than many, simply because the legal profession is open to so much scrutiny, so many accusations of fat cattery. Still, there is obviously much more to be done.
But social mobility is a serious issue and it perhaps deserves a little more care, attention and analysis than simply checking out a few LinkedIn profiles and cobbling together some hasty conclusions.