SBL slams race advice leaflet

The Society of Black Lawyers (SBL) has blasted the Law Society's latest advice on avoiding racial discrimination as inadequate.

It is calling on President Charles Elly to seek more punitive measures against discriminating firms.

The SBL says the society's initiative involving a mailshot to all firms does not go far enough, and only points out what employers should already know is legally required of them.

Makbool Javaid, SBL chair, says: “Sending a leaflet in itself will not have any effect. It won't make any headway in trying to ease the very difficult situation experienced by ethnic minority students who cannot get a training contract.”

The SBL says it should have been consulted by the society in developing a more strategic approach.

“The Law Society should use its disciplinary powers against specific firms that discriminate,” he says.

Society of Asian Lawyers (SAL) chair Sailesh Mehta welcomes the Chancery Lane initiative. “But there is more to be done,” he says.

“It's a sad indictment on the legal profession that the society had to issue this. Those firms that discriminate probably will continue to do so, but it might help those that discriminate through ignorance.”

Jonathan Goldsmith, on the society's working party on discrimination, defends the leaflet as part of a long-term strategy.

He says the leaflet is based on survey results this year which found hard evidence of discrimination. The survey showed that only 7 per cent of well-qualified black students achieved training places compared with 47 per cent for equally or less well qualified white students.

The study, carried out by the Policy Studies Institute, will continue to follow 4,000 students over six years. A practice rule requiring all firms to have an equal opportunities policy, supported by black lawyer groups is under consideration by the Lord Chancellor and should be in place next year.

The SBL is to call on society President Charles Elly for tougher sanctions against firms and will meet, along with the SAL, the City of London Law Society on the issue.