The number of training contracts offered by law firms fell by 18% last year, Law Society figures have shown.

The Society’s annual statistical report reveals that only 4,784 training contract places were offered in 2010, compared to 5,809 in 2009.

The drop reflects the impact of the economic downturn on firms.

Of the new trainees registered, 63% were women, and 20% of those with known ethnicity came from ethnic minority groups.

The report shows that 9,337 students enrolled on the Legal Practice Course in 2009, with an overall pass rate of 62%, though not all students took the examination.

For those who actually took the LPC exam, the pass rate was 75%, which was 12% lower than the 2008 pass rate, but a similar figure to 2007.

There will be 12,142 full-time and 3,024 part-time LPC places available in 2010/11, though not all of these will be taken up.

At degree level, in 2009 there were 29,211 applicants to study first degree courses in law in England and Wales, of whom 19,882 (68%) were accepted.