Kingsley Napley scraps the umbrella label ‘BAME’

updated on 28 June 2021

City law firm Kingsley Napley announced that its ‘BAME & Allies Network’ has changed its name to “the Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage (REACH) group,” in a blog post on its website.

The strategic move away from the term ‘BAME’, which stands for ‘Black, Asian and minority ethnic’, comes after the label was criticised by chair of the Bar Council and a government report revealed the term causes more harm than good.

The independent report recommended a stop to “aggregated and unhelpful terms such as ‘BAME’, to better focus on understanding disparities and outcomes for specific ethnic groups.”

The report also explained that the recommendation is “further linked to that relating to data, with the related quality improvement plans and actions necessary to make this move under a data standard of charter.” If other law firms follow suit, this could lead to “harmonisation of ethnicity categories in government departments and other organisations at the most detailed level.”

Kingsley Napley proudly displayed its support for ethnic minority groups by stating it will no longer use the acronym ‘BAME’ because it “does not leave room for nuances” and could “disguise discrimination between ethnic groups.”

In April, the international firm also adopted the Halo Code into its appearance policy; the code “explicitly protects employees who come to work with protective hairstyles associated with their racial, ethnic, and cultural identities.”

The firm’s ‘REACH’ network is composed of around 50 members who are united in one purpose to “strive towards creating an inclusive workplace and wider community for all.”

However, critics warn that a move away from the descriptor could “increase stigma and undermine solidarity between ethnic groups.” This is because the term has successfully united diverse ethnicities by giving them a voice. Experts agree a disaggregation of the term could obstruct academic freedom by making “research into structural racism impossible.”

Kingsley Napley firmly believes the acronym ‘BAME’ “overshadows the fact that people from different ethnic backgrounds have varying life experiences and should not be grouped together in one category.” The firm explained that it had chosen the term ‘REACH’ “as it encapsulates our focus as a group,” which is to focus on “what it stands for rather than attempting to collectively define who we are.” Kingsley Napley reassures that although its name has changed, its “aims as a group remain the same.”

It is refreshing to see law firms and chambers taking strides to improve diversity in the legal profession, following the anti-racism protests in the wake of the brutal deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Just last month, Hogan Lovells launched a trainee mentoring scheme to boost the retention of ethnic minority lawyers and improve diversity in senior roles. Meanwhile, earlier this month the Supreme Court collaborated with a legal charity on a diversity scheme for ethnic minorities and Hardwicke Chambers announced that it is set to change its name due to newly discovered slave links.