The legal industry is built on the notion that when brilliant minds come together it is possible to resolve complex disputes or do extensive tasks. However, when most law firms lack ethnic diversity, it may convey an ambiguous message to these ethnic groups: that there is no seat at the table for them in the legal profession. This seems to be the narrative because the majority of legal trainees, associates and partners are white, despite the Law Society claiming that 40% of students that started a law degree during 2017/18 were ethnic minorities. Furthermore, according to Chamber Students, in 2018 the percentage of ethnic minority partners in regional/national firms and city firms in London were both at 6%. Not only is this percentage unacceptable – it seems to hint that conscious or unconscious racial bias is still being used against ethnic minorities; in order to prevent them from attaining powerful positions in the legal industry.
I believe an effective way to break the existing barrier of racial bias within the legal industry is through ethnic diversity. This is because an increasing presence of ethnic diversity can help identify and remove any unconscious or visible biases which prevent ethnic lawyers from attaining jobs. For example, there might be microaggressions towards ethnic lawyers that may not be noticeable from a non-ethnic perspective, however ethnic lawyers would be able to seek out the microaggressions as they come in their various forms. Here, diversity becomes an effective tool that promotes inclusivity by identifying harmful biases in order to create a harmonious work environment.
Another advantage of ethnic diversity is that it can significantly help reduce the amount of injustice incurred by black and ethnic people. Racially charged injustices have always been an issue, recently more attention and awareness has been brought to these issues due to the Black Lives Matter movement. It is possible that increasing the presence of ethnic lawyers can spread legal awareness and potentially help ethnic people suffering from racism by offering them special services.
LAW FIRMS MUST WELCOME ETHNIC DIVERSITY
More law firms should make it their mission to prohibit any harmful biases imbedded in their recruiting system. Ethnic lawyers deserve to have a fair chance – just like any other person in the legal profession. Additionally, the representation of ethnic lawyers gives inspiration to others of the same background. Increasing representation would show them that their skin colour should not be a reason to not pursue a career in law. Further, it will assure them that becoming a lawyer will not be a dead-end job due to the significantly low number of ethnic and black partners in law firms. The aspirations of non-ethnic students are not limited by the fear of racism; therefore, we should ensure that their ethnic counterparts are not constrained by racism.
We need to ensure that the recruitment system and legal profession gives ethnic minorities a fair and unbiased chance to flourish in the legal industry because equality is key for a functioning society.