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David Lammy: ‘We will not see a BME Lord Chief Justice in my lifetime’

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Top names from law and politics gather to discuss legal profession’s diversity problem

David Lammy, the barrister turned MP for Tottenham, believes he won’t see a Lord Chief Justice from a black minority ethnic (BME) background in his lifetime, but is hopeful the Supreme Court may gain a non-white justice in the same time period.

In an impassioned talk about race in the justice system given in the Caledonian Club near Hyde Park yesterday, Lammy expressed resentment at what he calls the profession’s interpretation of “merit” as “white, male and middle class”. He encouraged the use of judicial targets, however, he didn’t go as far as to push for quotas, as these are “problematic”.

The Lord Chief Justice is the formal head of the judiciary of England and Wales and, in its 150-year history, has never been held by a woman nor a BME man. Though there had been speculation that 2017 would see a female take the post, it was Ian Burnett who was eventually promoted to the role, in October.

Lammy — who some believe is a contender to be the next leader of the Labour Party — is more hopeful about better BME representation at the Supreme Court. Though the country’s most important bench has had a gender diversity spruce since the appointment of Lady Black and the promotion to presidency of Lady Hale, it’s still all-white.

Lammy was called to the bar in 1994, after becoming the first black Briton to study at Harvard (where he did a masters degree). After arriving late to the Westminster Legal Policy Forum event because of overrunning parliamentary business, he said:

“I’ve been qualified for more than 20 years, and I know plenty of BME lawyers who qualified before me. There are plenty of BME lawyers out there who are senior enough to be senior judges, and yet, they aren’t.”

On why this was, Lammy said the appointments commission was unable to tell him why BME lawyers’ applications aren’t successful (“if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…” he said). Sometimes, he continued, BME lawyers stop applying for senior judicial positions because the constant rejection is “embarrassing”.

The ethnic diversity of the country’s judiciary is an important issue, particularly in criminal law.

The low percentage of BME lawyers compared to clients has created a “trust deficit”, SOAS graduate Lammy said. Having been commissioned by then Lord Chancellor Michael Gove to review the justice system (“on the understanding I wouldn’t be leaving the Labour Party and joining the Conservatives!” he laughed), Lammy recommended the government sets “a clear, national target to achieve a representative judiciary and magistracy by 2025”. However, the government rejected this proposal.

More generally, the importance of diversity was a recurring theme in yesterday’s seminar. The first keynote speaker, Herbert Smith Freehills employment lawyer and Legal Service Board member Jemima Coleman, described diversity as “a public interest issue, and an interest of justice issue”.

Perhaps the most interesting debate explored where the diversity problem in the legal profession truly lies. Catherine Baksi, a barrister turned freelance journalist, focused on the problems of access to the profession.

She highlighted the extreme costs required to enter the profession (for example, it’s estimated training to be a barrister will set you back £127,000 when you add up course fees and associated living costs). The “overemphasis” on securing a law degree, which she thinks you don’t need to be able to be a good lawyer, means “strives made by the profession in diversity are being pushed back because of the cost of university”.

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The hope is that upcoming reforms to legal education in both the solicitors’ profession and at the bar will help ease this. But Baksi advocated a more radical change: a Chartered Institute of Legal Executive (CILEx)-style route into law, which shifts the focus away from university education towards on-the-job training. This would be cheaper and create a more diverse profession.

Stanford-educated Andrew Fairbairn — who runs a social mobility programme in London called SEO — thinks effort should be focused not on access to the profession, but retention.

“There are so many diverse candidates getting multiple [training contract] offers from multiple firms,” Fairbairn noted, “and that piece of the puzzle has a lot of groups behind it”. There is less momentum behind initiatives looking at what happens to more diverse candidates once they’re through the door; are they being given the opportunity to rise? “The evolution of the discussion should be about: retention, retention, retention,” he finished.

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79 Comments

Not Amused

Identity politics is toxic and depends wholly upon hatred to maintain itself.

I will stand over here with Dr King and care only about a person’s character and their ability to do the job. The outbursts and interventions from these identity politics demagogues does nothing but harm children and young people.

Lammy has, once again, got column inches crying racism with no proof. Once again somewhere is some room there is a BME child who will hear his words and give up without even trying.

Once again we let these mad people with their divisive ideology harm our young people. I do not care that the last few LCJs have been white men. I care that they have been pretty bad at their job. I look forward to a competent and able LCJ – I do not care what they look like, I will judge them on the content of their character as the only man I trust on racism once told me to do.

(87)(17)

Old lag

“There are plenty of BME lawyers out there who are senior enough to be senior judges” – memo to Lammy – being “senior” is not a relevant criterion.

(43)(3)

BAME!

🎼 I wanna live for-ever🎶

(1)(0)

Ron Jordan

I sit here in the States and see with it my eyes. You say there is no racism in the legal world in the UK, are you daft or just playing stupid for your legal peers. I have visited London and I have law firm clients in the UK and spoken to BEM’s for over 15 years and little has changed. In comparison to the US, the UK legal business is in another galaxy. As for you, you are either living under a rock or have no concept of fairness or equality. Please, really can you be that slow? I am on harder on UK lawyers for the simple fact is your nation was the foundation for our laws in the States. Still, you deny your BEM’s an opportunity to practice law without any obstacles. You deny someone that studied and work harder than you did and still they are denied that opportunity to
practice law. You say that identity politics has no place in the law, the law is about identify, about being a Brit and even then, those who are born there are not thought to be British because the aren’t “white.” You all brought identity into the law because if you aren’t “white” you can’t be included. Now the British empire, what is left of it, now has to deal with the Prince marrying a self identified black woman from the States. Deal with it and embrace that and the rest of the UK legal community will take care of itself. You should stand in unity or just find a new profession, you are neither wanted or needed, you are a relic of the past, because you deny that inequality even exists,hang up your wig and leave the building.

(11)(51)

Anonymous

See you haven’t mastered counting in the US yet. 12% of barristers are BME. 15% of solicitors are BME. 12.83% of the UK population is BME.

(37)(0)

Trumpenkrieg

He hasn’t mastered writing in clear English either

(18)(3)

Anonymous

And as for declaring that our laws were the source for yours, please note that the UK never in its history had racial segregation as law or policy. Y’all invenned that one yoselves!

(22)(1)

Anonymous

UK may or may not have in ‘its history had racial segregation as law or policy’, but it surely did, and still does, practice it. And sadly I envisage that there is a lot more come after brexit..

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Brits are systemically racists. The sooner they accept the fact the better.

(5)(12)

Anon

I would have thought that Singh LJ, who is only in his 50s and who has a very good reputation, was an extremely likely candidate for either LCJ or the SC.

(15)(3)

Anonymous

Brown is not black, not oppressed enough for Labour

(15)(5)

Anonymous

Singh

(0)(0)

Trumpenkrieg

A professional complainer.

(23)(6)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(5)(6)

Trumpenkrieg

Implying you are heterosexual lol

(1)(4)

Corbyn. Sympathiser

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(2)(5)

Trumpenkrieg

I must give Cuckhold. Sympathiser a bit of credit here and note that you are quite clearly an impostor

(2)(4)

Anonymous

You’ve obviously been using ‘cuck’ too much on the doubtful alt-right websites you hang out on to know that it’s short for ‘cuckold’ – not ‘cuckhold’.

It’s related to ‘cuckoo’: the idea being about being displaced, pushed from the nest.

You seem really very thick.

(10)(0)

Barry G

Utterly despicable man, sowing resentment and division for attention and power. MLK would be disgusted.

(33)(7)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(8)(3)

Anonymous

You, sir, are an idiot.

(8)(7)

Trumpenkrieg

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(2)

SingaporeSwing

A representative judiciary would have the same proportions as the general population.

So it would be 13% BAME.

(6)(6)

Anonymous

The judiciary represents the cream of the profession and, at the most senior level, one might expect them to have 30-40 years’ experience behind them.

As such, one can only really expect the judiciary to be as diverse as the country was when they started all those decades ago.

(6)(0)

Anonymous

Please, ‘cream’ more like sour milk. Most senior judiciary get to where that have by climbing a very greasy pole and kissing ass.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Peter Herbert for LCJ.

(7)(2)

Anonymous

Why must he be so selfish as to aspire for a black to have the absolute highest spot in the profession and in such a short span of time? Surely there are also other qualified candidates belonging to both majority and minority groups that are fit for the position. Is he not unjustly overlooking the merits of candidates that belong to these other groups? We really need to move beyond this malicious brand of identity politics.

This extreme progressiveness is essentially impatience, selfishness and is intolerable. It should be enough that we have built institutions whereby everyone is capable of achieving as much as they can through merit, which we arguably already have.

(13)(2)

Does not know Katie King

They’ll be asking not to be referred to as “a black” next.

(10)(6)

Anonymous

To be fair the term ‘a Black’ doesn’t even make grammatical sense.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

*To be fair,
You played yourself.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

*with yourself

(3)(1)

Anonymous

So far as I can tell, Lammy is just exhibiting racism himself here, wanting a BME individual to be appointed because they are BME. That seems a paradigm example of racism to me. This is divisive politics based on identity. Merit speaks for itself, whomever it resides in and whatever they look like.

(33)(5)

Anonymous

I’m afraid you miss the whole point which is that white assessment of merit is inherently biased in favour of middle class whites and against those who do not have that appearance. As a white of limited vision you obviously cannot comprehend that reality.

(4)(1)

Anonymous

A complete non-issue and a lie. Judicial appointments should go to whoever is the most competent, regardless of race. Furthermore, Lord Woolf (LCJ 2000-2005) was Jewish: very much an ethnic minority and any Jew can confirm that anti-Semitism is alive and well

(23)(1)

Trumpenkrieg

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(29)(6)

Anonymous

Wow! Look at all the likes this has got: 20 at the moment, and no thumbs down.

I mean, it’s all completely true and everything, but it’s not exactly *pro* semitic is it!
Interesting how the old school racists as well as modern SJWs can all get behind not being all that keen on Jews.

(2)(1)

Trumpenkrieg

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(3)

Anonymous

But considered a white ethnic minority in the UK in a similar way to how “Hispanic” is a distinct category in the US but would come under white in the UK.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

The sad thing is that there is a significant movement in the labour party about racism but a voice like Lammy’s is its voice.

It is a shame that this voice seems to be all that is required to get votes in Tottenham.

If, like in the USA in the 1960s, you have to appeal to a whole nation to gain celebrity, there is a need for you to be far more comprehensive and statesmanlike in your utterances.

Alas we have Lammy and Abbott’s voter vault mentality here, so unlike MLK and Malcolm X they are not really attractive to the mainstream.

The democrats in the US are similar now to Lammy because they seem to be basing their strategy on needing approx 55% of the votes.

It is a shame. It is populism. It is not a vision of the higher heights of humanity.

I like to think of Elvis Presley or Gary Lineker as white men, as well as Randolph Churchill or Jim Crow. Wouldn’t it be nice also to have someone like Gary or Elvis be the Lord Chief Justice, rather than a die hard dynastic white middle class male ? There is a big difference between the two types.

Big up for Elvis’ “If I can dream.” Go on, treat yourselves, black and white together.

(2)(5)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

Corbyn. Sympathiser

What about the first working class LCJ? That’s the elephant in the room the bourgeoisie don’t want us to discuss.

(20)(5)

Anonymous

Very fair point, you have to go back to Henry VIII for one of those.

(4)(0)

Anna

Having widely worked as a legal recruiter, I’m sad to say that the legal profession is without a doubt highly racist and sexist, particularly as far as BME men and black women go.

I myself although look western European, am English of Lebanese extraction and have a Christian and more or less neutral name, which seems to give me an “in” into what’s actually going on in the minds of legal HR.

I’ve seen post-screened shortlisted CVs for associate roles, re-screened by more senior management to remove “the kind of people who won’t fit into the magic circle culture” directed by the client firm’ HR (particularly UK firms as opposed to US ones).

I’ve had situations where clients will for temporary roles opt for white Australian/NZ/US lawyers over BME British solicitors on English law matters and have heard the expression about “dogs born in stables are not horses” and the “Nigerians” who (supposedly) run the SRA can’t change that” over the phone in the same context.

More recently I was told at drinks by a drunk and sexually aggressive partner of a large London firm “so you’re the girl sending us all those w*gs” even though I (supposedly) know we’re going to tell them to f*uk off… and that “do I really go out of their way to find them “dogs” and how come all the “totty” goes to the magic circle firms, which he claimed was “discrimination”.

I’ve had similar experiences with recruitment for receptionists, with demands for “something pretty to cheer you up in the morning”.

I would imagine the situation is probably quite similar a judge level.

(18)(34)

Anonymous

That’s interesting Anna , thanks. I don’t know why you racked up 5 down votes so quickly.

(2)(17)

Anonymous

Not sure what the issue is with the comment in your penultimate paragraph.

(7)(3)

Anna

Jones Day Partner.

Receptionists (and indeed women) are not objects to “cheer up” lecherous partners by being “pretty” or being of the ethnicity that the persons objectifying them, find most appealing.

(7)(15)

Anonymous

This is obviously your first visit to this site.

(8)(0)

Trumpenkrieg

You are a recruitment consultant. You are not in a position to lecture anybody.

(3)(2)

Anonymous

Its the last sentence of Anna’s rant that is totally insane

(8)(1)

Anonymous

Your actually the racist with your comments about looking white and being arabic.

Lawyers need to be presentable and attractive people are more successful. That’s just a fact and this feminism rubbish how men should simply never find any woman attractive ever or even behave like a normal human being is leftist BS to force the employment of foreign people who are not suitable or probably not even properly qualified and probably ugly to boot.

This post has been moderated because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(4)(6)

Anonymous

LOLz.. Not so clever using your real name Anna or your ethnic ID. I guessed exactly who you are and your agency..😂

(4)(1)

Anon

Ya I guessed ssq

(1)(1)

Anonymous

The fact that you’ve racked up so many negative comments and down votes shows how screwed up the situation is.

Thank you for commenting.

(3)(0)

Harrumph

I never quite understand why Jews aren’t counted as BAME.

That would give recent LCJs in Woolf, Phillips and Taylor, and Supreme Court Justices/Lords of Appeal in Ordinary including Woolf, Phillips, Neuberger, Dyson, Hoffmann, Steyn, Collins, Brown, Millett and Cohen.

Not to mention Etherton as MR.

I fully accept that this doesn’t take away from the lack of non-white judiciary in the highest offices, but it surely ought to be recognised when considering judicial diversity.

There is little question that Singh will be the first non-white Supreme Court Justice, whether in the next round or soon after that.

(10)(14)

Anonymous

… because it is very similar to normal (Christian)

(3)(4)

Harrumph

Jesus for one didn’t think it sufficiently similar!

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Read Hegel

(0)(0)

Anonymous

does anyone really care???

(6)(0)

Anonymous

As long as he/she went to a decent school and varsity I don’t see the problem

(9)(0)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

what does BAME actually stand for. Cant work it out

(4)(1)

Corbyn. Sympathiser

I’m sorry Google doesn’t work for you.

(3)(3)

Anonymous

i want someone to spell it out for me on here

(3)(2)

Anonymous

Corbyn Cant Spell

(3)(0)

Corbyn. Sympathiser

You strike me as lazy.

(0)(3)

Anonymous

It is in the photo of Mr Lammy above.

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic

(0)(1)

Corbyn. Sympathiser

Before I clicked this thread, I thought, “will the posters of LC surprise me, or will this be a mish-mash of ill-informed, reactionary comments filled with at best toddler level understandings of both race relations in general and the oeuvre of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in particular made by knuckleheads who are too pathetic even for a chan site and know-nothing liberals?”

Spoilers: I wasn’t surprised.

(19)(17)

Anonymous

I suggest you know next to nothing about Martin Luther King or his speeches, Corbyn. One of his stand out points is that he did not aim to be a consensus leader, rather he was a visionary*.

Lammy, Abbot and Labour generally are consensus leaders nowadays. They play to the mob in certain constituencies like UKIP and the Tories do in certain constituencies. They have statisticians do the maths for them to get them over the line first past the post nationally and frame their speeches and characters accordingly.

On both left and right thid modus operandi leads to people presenting as smug and over promoted, rather than virtuous. It is populist politics.

You come across as smug and over promoted yourself.

Incidentally Trumpenkreig thought someone had signed in as you as an imposter near the top of the thread. I was not so sure. Please clear it up.

*to note that there is suggestion circulating in the US that he did not write the speeches himself. I am sceptical about this. There are unspoken drafts in his biography.

(3)(2)

Corbyn. Sympathiser

It was me.

Oh by the way, bugger off.

(1)(2)

Corbyn. Symphathiser

Not sure how you can cite David Lammy as not being divisive given the overwhelmingly negative reaction had on this very page to his comment above. Diane Abbott similarly is known for not being a ‘conciliatory’ politician – see for reference the “#tacticasoldascolonialism” drama. You are right that the Labour Party has previously been more about tactics than vision, but this isn’t the case under its current leadership, and hopefully won’t be in the future, after the 2017 election netted Labour its best voting result since 1945.

When the alt-rightists and liberals on this page quote MLK Jr., it’s exclusively the “judge by character not by skin” mention, which is very inspiring, but their interpretation is “and therefore I don’t have to try and change myself or society – after all, I’M alright”. MLK was openly in favour of positive discrimination and affirmative action for minorities, and for black people in particular. As you are well aware, he wrote in Birmingham Jail that possibly the greatest enemy to the progress of black people was not the KKK or Citizen’s Counsels, but the “white liberal… who prefers order to justice.” So when people who are at best apathetic about racial injustice here and abroad claim MLK Jr. as one of their own, I feel rather safe in describing them as having a toddler-level understanding of his work.

I won’t sit here and tell you that I’m not smug – but when the ‘other side’ are as easily dunked on as most of the reactionaries who populate LC below the line, it’s hard not to sometimes get an inflated sense of self. I don’t know what you mean by “over promoted”, though. I don’t go around posting links to my previous posts, or anything like that, so, uh, yeah, you’ve lost me here.

In this instance Trumpenkrieg has indeed been a broken clock and was correct. Anyone who has read my posts know that they tend to be detailed, and don’t resort to vulgarity. One of the weaknesses of LC’s comments policy is that, while its “Name (optional)” encourages quick comments, it doesn’t allow for security of voice for those of us who make an effort.

This is why I have so many ‘admirers’. Trumpenkrieg has said before that I am being satired, but satire is meant to be funny, or at least have a point. I accept that I am being lampooned, but this is because the denizens of this fair site aren’t able to engage with the points I make. Not Amused famously ignores anything that doesn’t suit their narrative, and Trumpenkrieg is a 4-chan reject who thinks that going “lol gay” is the height of both comedy and argument.

This is another reason I’m the only poster with so many ‘clones’: no-one wants to pretend to be Trumpenkrieg, because they’re an idiot. No-one wants to be Not Amused because they’re not interesting. Some people want to be Frustrated Writer because they actually have talent and are quite funny in their imagining of the LC news process. And some people lampoon me because they’re just not up to the task of debating me. Sad but true.*

*Sentences like this are why I accept that I am smug.

(4)(1)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

Corbyn. Sympathiser

That’s not a mosque: it’s Brighton Pavillion. Last year’s conference was in Brighton. That’s why it’s there. In future please don’t be suckered in by anti-Islamic fringe conspiracy theories.

I confess I find the rest of your post rather unfocused. Your central thesis, as far as I can gather, is that Labour politicians are both consensus politicians and divisive politicians. You cannot have it both ways.

The Labour Party does stand up for the rights of Muslims in this country, as it stands up for the rights of trans people, gay people, women, and ethnic minorities. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

I have never resorted to such vulgarities. If you are the Anon I think you are, you may recall my detailed post wherein I demonstrated that ‘Muslims bad for Labour’ just wasn’t true, and at no point did I insult anyone but the dullards of the far-right, among whom I do not count you.

I hope this has been helpful.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

Good man Corbyn , Brighton pavilion looks like a mosque, so I’ll give you that. Thanks for clearing that up.

My concern is that mps like Lammy and Abbott just say things that will win their constituency. If revenge is the order of the day then Those sorts of statements are all that is needed. They are on show for their constituency, that is how they have the controversy and the populism. Their constituency does not care that their views are unpopular with the mainstream.

You are a hard worker on here and I am grateful for our past dialogue.

But there is a ploy among the best administrators incidentally to give a reason for not engaging with arguments on presentation grounds, rather than what looks like grappling with points that would force a change in position. I would prefer it if you did not look for that exit if at all possible.

The above points are my criticism of labour at full power. I do believe passionately that it is a voter vault party with no tangible virtue. I am not saying the other parties are different nowadays, but Labour could have been different.

It is disappointing to me that there is not enough goodness in the labour party to call out what I regard as the alliance between the voter vault of Islam, Labour constituents drawing their views from the imam, and then the local Labour party being a front for the islamisation of the area resulting in the loss of ground of the love your neighbour / Christian connection with socialism.

Any thoughts gratefully received.
As with the Brighton pavilion point, it is better that we settle our disputes in relative private, anonymously.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Yet another Friday non story about diversity. Sooooooooooo boring

(8)(2)

Anonymous

Oh fuck off.

(1)(3)

Anonymous

Priti Patel, M.P., objects to the expression BME

(1)(0)

Anonymous

She’s hardly a role model for anyone or anything. Awful person.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

These comments are crazy

(8)(0)

Comments are closed.

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