Race to the Top – A Review

Racism exists in the legal profession.  To address methods to tackle discrimination the Society of Asian Lawyers (SAL) held an online event on 21 September 2020.

Race to the Top Part 2 builds on the work with the SRA and other minority ethnic professional groups.   The social, economic and historic moments of 2020 have further highlighted the disparity between races. While we spent much of 2020 in lockdown, we witnessed the murder of George Floyd, the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and statues being torn down. We lived through a period where these events made us stop and think- enough is enough. All forms of discrimination must stop.  The fact that it still exists in the legal profession where solicitors and barristers are regularly applying their minds to clients’ issues of discrimination is shocking.

During the event, we held anonymised polls asking thought provoking questions and asked some of our esteemed guests such as Remy Mohamed, Trevor Sterling, Vidisha Joshi, Jas Jandu and Naeem Mian QC to give an insight into their own experience through the legal profession, and the adversities they faced in building their careers. It was interesting to hear that despite the differences in our speakers, from race and sex to their respective roles in the legal sector, the same messages resonated throughout- be proud of who we are, make sure our voices are heard in this profession from the top and build and use our networks. It is so important that we ensure diversity is about conscious inclusion, not unconscious bias.

What was very interesting throughout the talk were the results of the polls. The data collected indicates not just how the BAME community is affected as a whole, but how individuals feel on a daily basis, especially at work. Each question tackled a different aspect of how we lead our life in the work environment and how it has shaped and will continue to shape our own careers.  A few examples of the results can be found below.

Everyone’s journey to the top differs, but this particular talk highlighted that world events may continue to shape and form our “inclusion”. However, even more so now, we must use our voices and networks to make sure that the legal and other professions continue to grow in diversity.

Examples of Poll results

Do you believe you have had to work harder than your white colleagues to get the same level of recognition?

Yes- 97%

No- 3%

Have you ever been asked by a fellow legal profession where you are “really” from? (or words to that effect?)

Yes- 92%

No- 8%

Would you like to see targets (not quotas) introduced to help achieve diversity? (E.g. Clifford Chance has targeted for 15% of new partners to be from minority ethnic backgrounds by 2025).

Yes- 81%

No- 19%

Sat Sokhi is an Associate at Kingsley Napley LLP specialising in Medical Negligence and is a SAL Committee Member.  

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