THE "significant" attainment gap between male and female pupils at school has been linked to a lack of men entering the legal profession.

Women outnumber men two to one on law courses and traineeships, with six in every 10 solicitors under the age of 45 now female.

The Law Society of Scotland said of the hundreds of young people who attended its career days last year, only around one in four was male and universities also report fewer boys showing an interest in the law.

The society claims that a persistent attainment gap at school may be to blame, with boys either failing to get the required grades for a career in law or simply not believing they will achieve the results they need.

Rob Marrs, head of education for the Law Society, said that although men were still more likely to get the top jobs in the legal profession, there was also an issue of equality at the more junior levels.

He said: "There is a significant attainment gap in secondary education between boys and girls.

"It's not surprising then that high-prestige, professional courses such as the LLB (bachelor of law), which typically require stronger Higher results, will generally have more female applicants."

Girls have long outperformed boys in education, although the gap has narrowed in recent years.

In 2013, a Scottish Government report showed 38 per cent of female pupils achieved five or more awards at Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) level 5 or better, compared to 29 per cent of male pupils.

In fifth year, 11 per cent of girls achieved five or more awards at SCQF level 6 or better, compared to eight per cent of boys.

Recent research by university admissions body Ucas also showed that young women in Scotland are 55 per cent more likely to apply than young men.

Writing for The Herald's Agenda, Mr Marrs said that it was now time to consider whether or not more needs to be done to encourage young men into law.

He says: "Women dominate hugely at the junior end of the profession.

"Until relatively recently no one really noticed this. Those who did probably though it an odd quirk of history.

"If anyone probed a little further it provoked comments like 'I bet they weren't worrying about gender when men outnumbered women'. And no, probably not.

"But does there ever come a point when we say we need more new male lawyers?"

The solicitor said that while six in every 10 solicitors under the age of 45 are now female, men are still more likely to get the top jobs and a significant gender pay gap persists in the profession – a situation that is not unique to law.

Research also shows that women dominate the medical profession, with 60 per cent of medical students now estimated to be women, while only one in 10 surgeons in Scotland is female.

Mr Marrs argued that taking steps to combat gender inequality for women at the top end of the profession "should not be incompatible with considering equality of access at early stages".

He added that if there is a need to encourage more boys to take up law, steps should be taken to raise awareness of the profession and raise aspirations.

However, gender equality charity Engender said more needs to be done to improve female representation at the top end of the profession – including more female judges and partners – first of all.

Emma Ritch, executive director of the charity, said: "It is interesting that a relatively slight over-representation of women has sent such a ripple of disquiet through the legal profession.

"We share the analysis of the Law Society that the principal gendered inequality is that the law is made, shaped, and led by men. This means that the law as a profession is male-dominated, in that it tends to reflect men's concerns and experiences.

"There are many professions, occupations, and sectors in which women comprise the majority of the workforce but men make up the majority of the managers and leaders.

"We welcome any approaches that widen access to the law, but urge the Law Society and others to increase their efforts to smash the glass ceiling that still sits above many female lawyers' heads."