Race and the Legal Profession

Where Are We Today and When Did the Journey Begin?

In the first of an annual round table series examining race equality within the legal profession, our panel seeks to examine the current issues and debates facing Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) lawyers, and we launch a new project to rediscover the lives of the first BAME lawyers.

Session 1

This session focused on the importance of diversity at the Bar which cannot be overstated. It ensures we have access to the widest pool of talent and gives the public faith that they are well served by the justice system. The 2019 Bar Standards Board’s Diversity at the Bar report stated that BAME barristers made up 13.6% of the Bar as a whole.

This conference explored the lived experiences of some of the speakers and those in the profession and contains references to racial slurs and physical offences.

We understand that some of the elements talked about in the conference may be triggering for some people and that it can be very emotional, both as attendees and speakers. You may feel that you need to stop the video and step away for a time.

BBC Action line provides a list of organisations that may be able to help , if you have been the victim of racism. The Bar Council offers a confidential equality and diversity helpline to all pupils and members of the Bar, please find out more here.

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Speakers

  • Moderator: Judith Bourne (St. Mary’s University, Twickenham)
  • Chair and plenary speaker, Sibghatullah Kadri QC: 'The State of the Bar with Regards to Race Relations in the Early 1970s and the Founding of the Society of Afro-Asian and Caribbean Lawyers Which Later Became the Society of Black Lawyers.'
  • Professor Leslie Thomas QC (Barrister, Garden Court Chambers): ‘Experiences of Working at the Modern Bar, Practice and the State of Race Relations at the Bar Today’.
  • Bibi Badejo (Barrister, 4 Brick Court) presented a picture of her work in chambers as a black woman working at the Bar tracking her own career.
  • Professor Iyiola Solanke (University of Leeds) on her experiences of working as a legal academic.

Session 2

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The second part of the day focused on 'Recovering the Past: First and Early Black and Ethnic Minority Lawyers', and we launched the project 'Recovering Lost Lives from the Archives'. Legal history can help improve racial equality at the Bar. It can challenge damaging racial stereotypes and provide a record of the true progress of black and ethnic minority lawyers, rather than rely on myths and legends.

Speakers

  • Chair: Avis Whyte (University of Westminster)
  • Judith Bourne (St. Mary’s University) outlined the project and intended outputs.
  • Caroline Derry (OU) and Judith Bourne: ‘Lessons Learned from Researching First Women Lawyers’
  • Alex May (ODNB): ‘The Importance of Biography’
  • Eduardo Reyes (Editor, Law Society Gazette): ‘The Importance of Publishing History’
  • Carrie de Silva (Harper Adams University), Dominic Carrington (University of Northampton), Avis Whyte and Judith Bourne, with the archivists of the 4 Inns of Court launched the project on ‘Recovering Lost Lives from the Archives’. Legal history has a part to play in improving racial equality at the Bar, through challenging damaging myths and racial stereotypes and providing a record of pioneer black and ethnic minority lawyers.

Recovering Lost Lives from the Archives Project

The Inns of Court would welcome any contributions to an online exhibition to be launched in March which will celebrate and rediscover the lives of our BAME members. Please contact the Archivist, Celia Pilkington.

Contact

Celia Pilkington

Archivist

Celia Pilkington

Archivist

Celia Pilkington

Archivist