From BBC’s The Split to NBC’s Law and Order, lawyers are prominent figures in the media and on television. However, conflicting representations of what lawyers look like on our screens can make it hard to know whether what we’re seeing is an accurate portrayal of the real life legal profession.
The research team at BPP Law University analysed actor profiles from different legal dramas in the UK and US, to see whether their portrayals of diversity (or lack thereof) are accurate.
According to the research, when it came to the representation of all ethnicities, only 22% of those from a black, or ethnic minority background were cast as main characters as legal professionals on TV, compared to 78% who were white.
Broken down, these stats revealed that only 15% of on-screen lawyers were Black, 1% were Asian, 2% were Middle Eastern and 4% were multiracial.
Additionally, from analysing legal dramas, the study found that men were more likely to be in a more senior position when it came to representation on TV. In fact, across the 30 different shows analysed, two-thirds (64%) of males were in partner roles compared to just 36% of women.
However, it’s clear from analysing the law industry’s current commitment to diversity and inclusion, that writers and directors still need to be more representative with their casting. From reviewing BPP Law University’s 2021 intake data, when it came to gender, almost two-thirds (64%) of students studying at BPP were revealed to be women, compared to just 36% of men.
Data collected by the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority), found that 16% of senior lawyers and partners were Asian, while 2% of legal partners were Black. 2% were made up of mixed-race individuals, as well as a further 1% of partners being made up of different ethnic groups.