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It’s ‘foolish’ to blame the solicitor, says Afghan-born barrister stripped of case after client requested ‘white male’

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Rehana Popal hit headlines last year after tweeting about incident

Rehana Popal

The Afghan-born barrister who was asked to return a case because her client wanted to be represented by “a white male” has said it would have been “foolish and simplistic” to blame the solicitor involved.

Writing in Counsel Magazine, Rehana Popal, a junior barrister at London’s 10 King’s Bench Walk, said she had received “overwhelming” levels of support from fellow lawyers since tweeting about the incident last November.

Despite being urged to report the solicitor to the regulator at the time, Popal said that this “would not address the root cause of the problem, nor make a material difference to the client’s instructions.” Popal, who came to the UK as a child refugee from Afghanistan, explained:

“If I made my solicitor the ‘scapegoat’, they may no longer have been so honest with me; and any future reasons for disinstructing may just have been packaged in a different way.”

Popal said it was made clear to her by her instructing solicitor that the client believed that the judge would be more persuaded by a white male advocate — someone the client “considered to look like the judge”. Stressing that the client’s perception of the justice system is the real problem and that reporting the solicitor wasn’t going to change that, the immigration and civil law specialist continued:

“We cannot escape the fact that the judiciary is overwhelmingly male and Caucasian. Great efforts have been made in recent years to diversify the judiciary and encourage applications to join the bench by those under represented. The fruit of these efforts, at the most senior end, will not be seen for years to come.”

Speaking to Legal Cheek back in November, Popal said the incident reminded her again of the “importance of promoting diversity at all levels of the legal system”. She added: “As much as I disagree with how the solicitor handled this, I appreciate the honesty because it has led to this conversation. We can only go forward from here.”

At the time, the Law Society’s president, Christina Blacklaws, warned that solicitors must not discriminate unlawfully against anyone on the grounds of any protected characteristic, while a spokesperson for the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) stressed that it takes all “allegations of potential discrimination seriously”.

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40 Comments

Anonymous

‘Comments are now closed’ in 3…2…1…

Anonymous

*When you can’t generate work, generate drama*

Archibald Pomp O'City

Oh, you platinum-grade cynic!!!!!

Anonymous

Because she doesn’t comply with your lazy stereotypes.

Anonymous

Rehana is absolutely right that this is not a case for disciplinary action against the solicitor. Actually, the way she has behaved in this matter, with dignity and good judgment, has significantly enhanced her reputation which already had a high standing. If I was a UK solicitor, I wouldn’t hesitate to instruct her.

Anonymous

Given the attention that the matter has drawn, I believe the solicitor knows what they did and will now see they were wrong. Nothing like the fear of a public shaming to curb errant behaviour.

Anonymous

We don’t know what the solicitor did, but Popa seems to be arguing that the solicitor wasn’t wrong. I think Popal was wrong not to name the solicitor and allow them to respond.

Anonymous

Don’t think that is what is argued at all.

Anonymous

What do you think?

Anonymous

We don’t know if its a case for disciplinary action against the solicitor because we don’t have the full information.

Anonymous

The solicitor was an escaped goat!

Anonymous

LC santisation of comments has happened. Deletions rather than blanket “this comment breached our policy”.

Anonymous

Just because you don’t agree with something doesn’t mean its racist.

Anonymous

That’s why it was a mistake on Popal’s part not to give full details – it has the likes of you foaming at the mouth in the early hours of the morning.

Anonymous

However bigoted the client, he needs to have confidence in his or her counsel.
I have often had black clients ask to change to black counsel, because of a belief that their concerns would be better understood.
It has never bothered me as I wanted the client to have confidence in the system & I have offered a recommendation of alternative counsel.

Drumpfenkrieg

That scenario is perfectly OK, because, you see, there is no such thing as reverse racism.

Anonymous

But did she have to attend the theatre and pretend to be middle class top secure pupillage?

Anonymous

Definitely. Only regular theatre goers are accepted at the Bar. There’s an annual test.

Anonymous

But they give cheap tickets away now, so the wrong types are getting in. Even to the ROH.

Anonymous

Popal bears some responsibility for the solicitor being blamed because without naming him or giving him the chance to reply she only told part of the story, which means we don’t know the solicitor’s or the client’s motives.

Archibald Pomp O'City

Yes we do. Yes we do know the motives. The client wants a counsel who they believe will have the greatest face validity to a judge. The solicitor wants a happy client. What’s so fucking difficult to grasp?

Anonymous

What makes you think that based on the available information? It sounds like a guess.

Its not difficult to grasp – its impossible without knowing the full story.

Anonymous

What is the ‘proof present’ you refer to?

Anonymous

Ms Popal appears to have obtained a MA in Grievance Studies.

And maybe Ms Popal can explain why 95% of male sex defendants are represented by a female barrister at trial?

We all know it’s because of the expectation that Juries will subconsciously ask how could this defendant be such a pervert if he is represented by the fragrant and attractive Miss Smith.

I don’t see the Assocatiin of Lady Barristers complain about this.

Anonymous

It doesn’t follow that because some criminal lady barristers defend those accused of rape as part of their job, it’s ok for non-criminal brown lady barristers to be refused non-criminal work because of their race and gender.

Anonymous

Because Popal didn’t give the whole story, we don’t know why she was refused the work on the basis of gender and ethnicity.

Your argument is that its ok to discriminate on the basis of gender as long as its in favour of women (according to you its ‘part of their job’) .

Mrs C B-H

Commentator:
Nuanced, tricky argument; well made.
Legal Cheek:
LOL! Hold my beer…

Anonymous

Leave Popal alone, it’s not nice having your briefs pulled just before a hearing. I applaud her for not naming the solicitor as they did no wrong and by disclosing said discrimation can be rightly proud of the small part they played in publicising this inequity. All in all a sticky mess that seemed to end up well for all concerned.

Distressed of Counsel

I got one don’t like having my briefs pulled just before a hearing.

As far as I’m concerned, a wedgie is an assault. Full stop.

Anonymous

Popal is being left alone, but is being rightly criticised for not giving full information. As a result, we don’t know if the solicitor did no wrong or whether they wanted the discrimination publicised.

Testicle Giles

Well either she should do something about it or stay silent. I am very fond Japaneses, especially among other things their proverbs and this one is apt , trying to make her understand is like ” chanting a prayer to Buddha into a horse’s ear”

Anonymous

You very fond of Japaneses?

Should they be wearing a sailor suit and an adult nappy?

Fukishita

Japanese proverb!?

Anonymous

What exactly happened?

Top Immigration lawyer

Frankly my dear I have nothing to fear – twitter and LinkedIn are my trusty bedfellows. Despite the discrimation popal complains of (yes men face it to!) I am inunderdated with instructions because I win every case , sometime just by showing up with my silly grin

Anonymous

A big fish in a very small murky pond.

Felicia

If people like Popal don’t call it out the world will not change. We need to call out bigotry and misguided views.

Anonymous

Popal didn’t call it out – that’s the problem. She didn’t name the solicitor or get the bottom of why the request was made.

Misguided to think anything will change based on what she said.

Anonymous

I am sorry this has happened to MS Poppal who was a former pupil at my former set. I was at the helm of the set which suffered from a down growth and negative equity. But I must remind her the words of Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar :

“There came a tide in the affairs of chambers, Which I took at the flood, lead on to misfortune. I permitted, all the voyage of our lives was bound in shallows and in miseries. On such an empty sea are we now afloat. And we must pay our liabilities as I serve, or lose our venture.”

One eyed floosie

I’ve never had as many instructions since I went on twitter and called out those puppet master c nts. Popal you go girl

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