Social exclusivity is increasing in the legal profession, according to a new analysis of lawyers' schooling published today.
Legal recruiter Laurence Simons studied almost 50,000 professionals working in London using the networking site LinkedIn. It found that more than 15% of lawyers - more than 7,000 in total - had attended one of the country's 250 public schools, compared with 2% of the national population.
The figures come at a time when diversity is a key issue in the profession. Last week the Solicitors Regulation Authority dropped its regulation of the trainee minimum wage, arguing that other ways should be found to ensure a more diverse intake of new solicitors.
The decision attracted criticism on the ground that only the elite will be able to fund themselves through legal education and a lower-paid first two years in the profession.
Naveen Tuli, managing director of Laurence Simons, said: 'The figures paint a disturbingly regressive picture of the opportunities open to those wishing to get into law.
'Social exclusivity is rife in the industry. The fact that 15% of people in the sector attended one of just 250 of the nation's most exclusive schools shows this is a real policy blind spot - a lot has been done to address the under-representation of women and ethnic minority groups and we're at least on the way to tackling those issues.
'But the under-representation of those who can't afford a silver-plated education is getting worse, not better.'
The legal recruitment firm points to the growing focus on degrees and the consolidation of legal jobs in the south east and London - where rental prices can be prohibitively high to those from elsewhere - as reasons for the decline of state-educated entrants.
Laurence Simons also states the demise of grammar schools has increased the gap between state and public school leavers. In the late 1980s - when the last generation educated at the height of the grammar school era was entering work - 10% fewer barristers and 15% fewer solicitors were privately educated than in the early 2000s.