Year 1 – Australian First Year Lawyers in Profile

photo-1I’ve been reading the 2011 Law Society National Profile Report* (‘Profile Report’) to learn a little more about lawyers in their first year post-admission after PLT. The Profile Report includes demographic information about solicitors, including lawyers at the 1-year post-admission stage, drawn from data supplied by Australian state and territory law societies as at October 2011.

6000 First Year Lawyers

Nationally, approximately 6000 solicitors were admitted to practice during the 12 months to October 2011 (Profile Report, p. 9).[1] I assume most of  ‘first year lawyers’ would complete PLT shortly before admission, allowing for exceptions such as those who delayed admission after completing academic and practical entry requirements, or overseas practitioners exempted from PLT.

Most (not all) First Year Lawyers  25-29 Years Old

In relation to the age of solicitors, those aged under 24 years comprised 1.8% of the national total,[2] and those aged 25-29 years comprised 16.8% (Profile Report, p. 6).
A proportion of the 25-29 year group would be first year lawyers. Bearing in mind first year lawyers would include mature-age graduates, and assuming all of those aged under 24 years are first year lawyers, approximately half of the 25-29 years group might be first year lawyers. This would be consistent with first year lawyers comprising a little over 10% of all solicitors nationally.

More Female First Year Lawyers

Of all 59,280 solicitors, 54.6% were male and 45.4% were female (Profile Report, p. i). Of first year lawyers, females comprised 61.1% and males 38.9% (Profile Report, p. 10). Females outnumbered males in the <24 years group (female: 692; male: 353) and in the 25-29 years group (female: 6218; male: 3441) (Profile Report, p. 7).[3][4]

Most First Year Lawyers in Private Practices

First year lawyers comprised 11.7% of solicitors in private practice, 8.5% in government roles and 4.2% in corporate roles. In private practice, regarding the size of the law firm measured by number of partners, first year lawyers comprised 17.3% of solicitors in firms with 40 partners or more, 14.4% in firms comprised of 21-39 partners and 11-20 partners, 12.9% in firms with 5-10 partners, 11.7% in firms with 2-4 partners, and 8.5% of sole practitioner firms (Profile Report, p. 11).

Most Young Lawyers Are In A City

Most ‘young lawyers’ (solicitors admitted for 5 years or less) worked in the city (62.7%) or the suburbs (23.2%), with the remainder at overseas or unknown locations.

The profile report provides some useful demographic information about Australian solicitors, which would be enhanced by additional qualitative research. I found it useful to learn more about where first year lawyers are located in the legal sector and geographically. I was a little surprised that nearly 6000 were admitted to the profession during the relevant period, but less surprised by the gender distribution because this was consistent with my observations in teaching PLT during 2007-2011. With seemingly very few first year lawyers moving into country or regional work, there might be a role for PLT teachers to provide insights to law graduates about the potential benefits of working outside of the city and suburban areas. Also, given the higher proportion of women joining the profession, it will be interesting to see whether there will be a reversal of the historical reduction of women in the profession as the cohort grows older.

* Urbis for The Law Society of New South Wales, ‘2011 Law Society National Profile – Final Report’ (The Law Society of New South Wales, 2012).

[1] It is difficult to be precise because the Profile Report did not include admission figures for ACT and Tasmania, because those jurisdictions did not report admission statistics (Profile Report, p. 9).
[2] Excludes ACT and Tasmania: Note to Table 3 (Profile Report, p. 6).
[3] Excludes ACT and Tasmania: Note to Table 4 (Profile Report, p. 7).
[4] In older age groups the proportion of females to males decreases rapidly, beginning with the 40-44 year age group and upward (Profile Report, p. 8).