COLOUR BARRED

It’s that time of the year, also known as the silly season.  That said, the silly season seems to run all year round.  I refer of course to the “special interests” lobbies whose sole aim in life is to challenge the established order at every level of our society.

The latest challenge is directed at the composition of the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, where it is said, quite rightly, that there are no members of black or brown ethnic minorities sitting as judges, and why not!  Why not may be that there are no suitably qualified members of the black or brown ethnic minorities to be considered for such an appointment.  But to these specialist lobbies, that should be no impediment at all.  Better to have an incompetent black than no black at all, or so their argument goes.

I have never been in favour of social engineering, but then, I am neither black nor brown, so I can afford to be smug.  That said, the composition of these sceptred isles is changing year on year, and according to the latest statistics, as a WASP, I shall be an ethnic minor in 20 years’ time, max!  So does it matter, and should I care?

In some respects, I am past caring, as I watch the legal profession transmogrify before my very eyes.  The old ways, which had stood the test of time for centuries are no longer fit for purpose, so instead of trying to hold on to them, they are to be abandoned. I am filled with trepidation as to what will replace them.

I am prepared to meet the ‘special interests’ lobby to this extent.  Where there are two equally qualified candidates, and one is white and the other black or brown, then the appointment should go to the ethnic minor, soon to become the ethnic major.  But to stick a wig and gown on an unsuitable candidate and expect him or her to make the grade is ridiculous, and worse still, it will bring the legal profession and the judiciary into disrepute.

Finally, I ask in a spirit of enquiry if, by describing the ethnic minors as black or brown, I could be discriminating against yellow people.  Please advise, as it ‘s an ethnic minefield out there.

 

FIT FOR PURPOSE

Baroness Scotland, the former Attorney General, believes that the legal profession is too white and too middle class.  For her part, she is clearly not white and obviously in a class of her own, which I suppose gives her the credentials to make these observations.

Statistics show that the most successful barristers and solicitors are drawn from the white middle classes, as well as the top universities.  Leaving aside the colour issue for a moment, these statistics are hardly surprising.  Those who have had the benefit of the best education, which is usually public school and Oxbridge, are bound to have a head start.  After all, that is the primary purpose of a good education, to give you a head start over your competitors.

The colour issue is an intractable problem in the profession, and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Asians, particularly in areas with a high Asian population, are beginning to make their mark as high street solicitors, but far too many feature on the Bar Council’s blacklist of discredited solicitors, if you’ll forgive the pun. This needs to be explained, but not here.

Blacks, be they solicitors or barristers, come a distant third in the pecking order, and the legal profession does not hold an obvious attraction to them.  As things stand, who can blame them?

I have grave reservations about social engineering to achieve the goals set out by Lady Scotland.  Indeed, she is her own worst enemy, as she has climbed the greasy pole as a black woman and held high office in the last government, and all without bending the rules to accommodate her. As the argument goes, if she can make it, why not others of her colour and background?

The law is too important to adopt a policy of “come one come all”, as the Labour Government did when they introduced comprehensive education with disastrous consequences, and we are now at the bottom of the league for literacy and numeracy.  This affects all children, regardless of colour or creed, and leaves the public schools to dominate the market.  There is talk of using social engineering to allow the most disadvantaged to jump the queue, but when they get to the front, the law schools and universities have only two options: either to lower the standards that would normally apply; or to maintain them and fail the queue jumpers.  Nobody’s a winner. And even if they scrape through and present themselves for interview at a top set of barristers’ chambers or a top firm of solicitors, what happens? Should they be admitted because they are black, or brown, and disadvantaged, even if they are palpably not up to the job, to the exclusion of better qualified and better suited white middle class candidates?

To maintain the highest standards, we need lawyers and judges of the highest calibre, regardless of colour or background.  There are bad lawyers and bad judges, but they are a minority, and are usually weeded out before they bring the profession into disrepute.

The answer surely is to socially engineer from the bottom up, and not the other way round. After all, the pursuit of excellence should be the ultimate goal, and not just in the legal profession.