Increase in black lawyers leads to new directory

Big increases in the numbers of practising black lawyers has led the Society of Black Lawyers (SBL) to update its directory of black practitioners.

The directory lists black solicitors, barristers and other legal service providers. It gives people from ethnic minorities direct access to firms with experience in racial issues.

More than 600 people in need of legal help contact the SBL each year to ask for the names of ethnic minority lawyers. In 1994 the directory listed 235 practitioners, mainly in London and Birmingham.

The SBL is now urging black lawyers to get in touch so they can be included in the fourth issue of the directory, which will be published to coincide with the society's 25th anniversary in 1998.

“We expect the number of ethnic minority law firms to have at least doubled over the past three years,” said SBL chief executive Marcia Smith.

“Our only problem is that, although we have lists, they are springing up so rapidly we do not always have records of them,” she added.

SBL administrator Sandra Thomas said the directory enabled ethnic minority clients to contact lawyers who could “empathise” with them because they understood both “their cultural background and the climate of the judicial system”.

The 1998 issue will be dedicated to Fairgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court judge and a civil liberties campaigner.