Before I dive into my topic for this article, I wanted to give a brief background about myself and my journey into the legal sector. I was born in Zimbabwe, in southern Africa. My parents brought us to the UK in 2003 in search of greener pastures and with the hope that one day we would achieve what they could only dream of for themselves at that time. Fast-forward to 2014: after moving back and forth from the UK to Africa, I decided to study law at the University of the West of England in Bristol. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my experience learning the law, when I think back, I really didn’t think I would ever be able to work in a law firm.
While at university, most of the conversations that I had with my peers left me feeling as if studying law had been a waste of time; I rarely felt confident about the path I had chosen. I often found myself asking whether the most that could be gained from my degree was simply making my parents proud and whether I would have to settle for a less ambitious career. The truth of the matter is that regardless of the situation you find yourself in, when you are in the minority there will always be an element of self-doubt. Numerous people from my community told me that I would struggle and potentially would never be able to get a job in the legal industry because I am a Black African.
Although it is not always the most popular conversation to have, I believe diversity in the workplace is a crucial part of any business’s success. Having diverse teams creates a platform for people to look at legal or commercial issues from different perspectives and it is this difference that adds to the quality of work that lawyers produce. I would have never thought that I would be in the position that I am today, having worked at a national law firm for close to a year now. The experience I have gained has been truly amazing and it’s definitely given me hope about my future within the industry. Based on my personal experience, I believe that there is a shift occurring and more firms are now beginning to understand that embracing diversity creates a better pool of talent for the firm.
However, there is still more work to be done, not only in terms of recruitment but also promotions. According to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, based on data collected in August 2017, there has been an increase in the proportion of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) lawyers working in law firms and now one in five lawyers is from a BAME background. This increase is said to be largely due to the rise in Asian lawyers in the profession. Nonetheless, issues do become more apparent when you look at the breakdown of partners in firms by size, as the biggest firms have the lowest proportion of BAME partners. The good news is that progress is being made and as with all things, it will take time until we can finally say that a drastic change has occurred.
But as for now, it is very important for us to keep the conversation going, as this is the only way that more changes can take place.