JEDDAH: The number of licensed lawyers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia reached to a total of 3,844, of which 102 are women according to the Ministry of Justice which released a report on Tuesday displaying largest number of licenses the ministry has given in one year to practice law.
In the 1437 hijri year, the ministry issued 512 licenses, 39 of which to female lawyers.
The number of lawyers as a ratio to the population of Saudi Arabia is low. According to the General Authority of Statistics (GAS), Saudi Arabia’s population is 31,015,999, which means that there is one lawyer for every 8,069 people. Meanwhile women make up only 5.3 percent of lawyers in the Kingdom.
Arab News spoke to Bayan Zahran, the first Saudi woman to get a license to practice and the first to open a law office in 2014, about the ministry’s report.“Indeed, the number of lawyers in the Kingdom is low, and the reason the number of women is low is that the idea of practicing law varies among women and men,” Zahran said.
“For men, it might be the risk of starting a business or the low chance of having a job security. It might be simpler to just have a regular job with a stable income than dive into an adventure in such a relatively new sector for Saudi Arabia” Zahran added.
“In the case of women, the process of gaining the license might be harder even though the same steps are followed in the process by both genders” Zahran further added.
In order to obtain a license to practice law, a graduate has to train at a licensed lawyer office in Saudi Arabia for 3 years or more, according to the Ministry of Justice.
“Bearing in mind that the vast majority of licensed law offices are operated by men, it is indeed much harder for a Saudi woman to train in such an environment than for a man, due to cultural boundaries, of course” said Zahran.
Saudi women make up only 10.1 per cent of the Saudi workforce, according to the Labor Force Survey for the second quarter of 2016 performed by GAS.