Bar race relations chair targets discrimination in chambers

The first black barrister to be appointed as chairman of the Bar Council's Race Relations Committee has claimed that discrimination within chambers risks holding back the careers of ethnic minority lawyers.

According to Lincoln Crawford, the Bar had made huge advances in opening up the profession to people from ethnic minorities groups, but once in chambers they were often overlooked or ignored by clerks.

“Getting in the set is one thing,” said Crawford. “Having got there it is a question of have you got access to good quality work?”

Crawford, who has been at 12 King's Bench Walk since he was called to the Bar in 1977, said he had to build more than 90 per cent of his own practice.

He said barristers from ethnic minority groups found they were often labelled as suitable for certain types of low-profile work. “That is the type of insidious discrimination you face,” he added.

Taking up his post last week, Crawford said one priority as his time as chairman would be to work alongside the Institute of Barristers Clerks (IBC) to stamp out discrimination in chambers. “There are lots of clerks who are very willing to talk and willing to take this forward,” said he said.

IBC chair Stephen Graham rejected suggestions of discrimination by clerks but welcomed the prospect of talks.