Nicholas Siddall, barrister and head of employment, Kings Chambers

Opinion: Firms shouldn’t just talk the talk on ‘class’ diversity

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  • Why does the workplace need to be representative? Do we need it to be representative of the globle, or just the country, or just the city, or just the village? What about representative of all religions, lest we offend one? What about gender, sexual preference, disability, mental illness, physical illness? How about we stir in there some sugar and spice and just a modicum of fairy dust? The best lawyer should get the job- period. Black, white, yellow, fat, thin, gay or not- the best lawyer should win out. I don't see any statistics showing the qualifications of the alwyers who have jobs- most likely because they don't suit the writer's puropse.

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  • Unlike race, accent is something that you can change/moderate. Many of us have done so to a greater or lesser extent, and by doing so we smooth over our differences in class/region. Some diversity is lost perhaps. But the flipside is that to moderate your accent indicates an ability and willingness to fit into your environment and with other people. That's not to say that we should expect everyone to sound like a public schoolboy/girl. But is it unreasonable that those who refuse to moderate their accent to fit better into a professional environment should find that as a handicap to getting on/into the profession? A bit like dressing professionally, innit?

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  • If firms want to recruit an individual with a certain profile because it deems this will be best for business, then you can't blame the law firm.
    Law firms exist to serve the needs of their clients and if their clients respond to a lawyer with a certain profile then so be it.
    Why should firms lose money just to be politically correct?

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  • I wonder if your correspondent is mixing up two distinct issues- a "working class" accent and ungrammatical/inarticulate speech patterns. I grew up in a council flat and went to local schools in East London where my peers spoke classic " Cockney". I did smooth out my accent a bit but more importantly learnt to speak coherently and fluently (with some help from my parents who would not have tolerated "aitch dropping" etc .
    I have worked with inarticulate public school boys and highly articulate East Enders who had the benefit of an education system which did not patronise them but taught them to speak grammatically even if with a regional accent.
    Who would want an inarticulate ungrammatical lawyer and why is it racist to require high standards of speech and grammar from a lawyer ?

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  • "Unlike race, accent is something that you can change/moderate."

    Pfft. Tell Sean Connery that.

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  • Undoubtedly the best must get the job but the problem with the English Law firms is that they equate the best not on on their qualifications, skills or achievements but on their backgrounds-preferrably white, high class and from good university and European. Law firms in England have been lobbying hard for openning the legal sectors elsewehere but in their own turf they are excessively restrictive in terms of recruitment and selection from non-European backgrounds. Law firms in London are not global law firms they are very much local law firms with very narrow outlook for recruitment, selcting candidates mostly from UK, sparingly from EU and rarely from non-Eu territories (which is also resticted to Australian and Canadian lawyers-white lawyers) and hardly from other commonwealth countries. Why do these law firsm with such narrow contricted mentalities strive and aspire and seek the legal sectors in the developing economies to open up? Typical British double standards

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  • Unfortunately a lot of it is just talk. As with CSR etc, its all about being seen to do the right thing but you can't make the individuals concerned believe/think it. In my opinion lawyers are generally judgemental of those who think, act, look or speak different to them.

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