Responding to racism – taking a proactive stance


Lawyers are being urged to use their position to address racism in their legal practices and the broader community in a new guide for the profession to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

President of the Law Society of NSW Brett McGrath has welcomed the publication of the Introductory Guidance and Strategies for the Legal Profession which focuses on actions and practical steps that solicitors and firms can take against racism. 

“We live in one of the most successful multicultural nations in the world, yet racism persists in our society and extends into our workplaces,” Mr McGrath said.

“To better serve our diverse communities, lawyers need to ensure a lack of discrimination within their own ranks. This isn’t only important from a moral perspective, but it also makes business sense, because our profession, our workplaces and our clients are all diverse.”

The guide encourages lawyers to use their knowledge and position as officers of the court to to critically consider and challenge laws, institutions, and policies that may entrench racism. 

“As this guidance points out, ‘responding to racism enlivens the ethical obligations of all lawyers to uphold principles of fairness, justice and equality across all aspects of their practice of the law’. This includes behaviour in the workplace, and the way we serve clients from diverse communities,” Mr McGrath said.

The launch of the guidance document took place at a function last night featuring Liverpool Local Court Magistrate Imad Abdul-Karim, who arrived in Australia at 15 years of age as a refugee from Lebanon. His Honour was the first graduate of Western Sydney University to be appointed to the bench. 

“I’m grateful to Magistrate Karim for giving his time and insights to the profession. His is a particularly inspiring story, which included six months of taxi driving after resigning from his first law firm, later becoming one of the leading prosecutors of terrorism cases in Australia with the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions,” Mr McGrath said.

“I also thank the members of the Law Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which includes lawyers from ethnically and culturally diverse communities, for preparing this important guidance with input from our Indigenous Issues and Employment Law Committees and other key diverse stakeholder groups in the profession.” 

The guidance on racism is the latest in a series of broader guidance from the Law Society designed to assist members and the profession generally on how we can help our profession and the clients we serve, including guidance on the legal implications of climate change, equitable remuneration, and model discrimination and harassment policies.