Female solicitors more likely to work ‘in-house’ than in practice

Law Society says research needed on why female solicitors opt for corporate jobs

Photograph: iStock

Photograph: iStock


A disproportionate number of the State’s female solicitors work “in-house” rather than in law practices, according to research by the Law Society.

An analysis of where solicitors with practice certificates work found that 68 per cent who were in-house were women, even though the proportion of women solicitors in the State is 52 per cent.

In-house solicitors work for employers such as banks or county councils. The figures analysed in the latest issue of the Law Gazette, do not include solicitors who work for the Government, as they do not have to have practice certificates.

“The fact that 1,232 in-house [practice certificate] holders are women and 573 are men, reveals that no less than 68 per cent of in-house practitioners are female,” noted Ken Murphy, director general of the society.

“Some 52 per cent of the entire practising profession are women, but only 48 per cent of those who are in private practice are women.”

The reasons why women solicitors are choosing in-house practice, rather than private practice to such a marked extent deserves to be studied properly, he said.

“Issues to do with work/life balance are often cited in this regard, but the implications for the future of all legal practice of this phenomenon require research and consideration.”

Not surprisingly, the analysis of the figures for in-house solicitors and their distribution around the State found that 81 per cent worked for employers based in the city and county of Dublin.

The list of employers shows that employment in the financial services industry, including State bodies in that sector, is the key factor behind the growth of in-house solicitors over the past two decades.


Earlier research from the society showed women comprised a slight majority of solicitors with practice certificates. There was a particularly strong showing for women solicitors in Dublin, where there were 3,235 female solicitors, significantly outnumbering the 2,831 male practitioners at the end of 2017.

In terms of named employers, the latest analysis shows that AIB employed 108 of the 1,805 practicing solicitors employed in-house at the end of 2017. If it were a law firm, AIB would be the ninth largest employer of solicitors in the State.

The next largest employer of in-house solicitors was the Central Bank, which had 94.

The Bank of Ireland employed 58 in-house solicitors and the Law Society, which has a role in regulating the profession, employed 50. The National Asset Management Agency (Nama) had 40 in-house solicitors, the State Claims Agency 35, and the ESB 20.

Research published already by the Law Society has shown that at the end of 2017 there were 9,665 holders of practice certificates in the State. The latest data means that approximately 19 per cent of such solicitors are working in-house. Twenty years ago the number of in-house solicitors was very low but it has grown at a rapid rate since.

The phenomenon of in-house solicitors is one that is sweeping the legal profession world-wide as commercial, regulatory, and other organisations recruit their own lawyers, Mr Murphy said in an article accompanying the statistics in the latest issue of the society’s Law Gazette.