Regulatory reforms and the introduction of alternative business structures (ABSs) are an opportunity to make the legal profession more diverse, Labour shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter has said.

Speaking at the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives graduation ceremony, Slaughter (pictured) said: ‘In Europe only Azerbaijan and Armenia have fewer female professional judges than England and Wales.

‘One Supreme Court justice, 11% of Court of Appeal, 16% of High Court and 18% of circuit judges are women – 24% of the judiciary overall.’

Slaughter said the statistics for race, religion and disability representation were ‘as bad or worse’.

But, he said, change is beginning to occur. ‘The changes that ABSs and reform of the regulatory and financial organisation of the profession mean are opportunities to make it more representative.’

Slaughter blamed successive governments for being ‘very poor at opening up the legal profession to all on the basis on talent, irrespective of background, education or advantage’.

But he said a Labour government would make diversity in the profession a priority.

‘I’m apologising for the appalling record of politicians in not building the three branches of the constitution – legislative, executive and judicial – in the image of the country they serve,’ said Slaughter.

Slaughter praised the diversity of CILEx, in which three-quarters are women, one-third is from a black and minority ethnic background and just 2% have parents who were lawyers.

CILEx graduates, he said, will help ‘rebuild’ a ‘better and stronger’ English legal system. ‘We will see many more legal executives as advocates, judges, partners and heads of law firms over the next few years,’ he said.