'Take a seat at the back': Lawyers, judge hit out at racism in the law
by Tammy Mills, The Age, 15 October, 2020
"Are you the defendant or are you the witness?" Sam Pandya is neither. He's the president of the Law Institute of Victoria, the state's top legal society. But it's a question he's been asked in court more than once...
Along with a Victorian judge, he has taken the unusual step of speaking out as new figures show the profession has a cultural diversity problem. In information collated in Victoria for the first time by the Legal Services Board at the request of the institute, lawyers renewing their practising certificates have been asked about their cultural background. Of the 17,000 lawyers who responded (70 per cent of registered practitioners), about 80 per cent said they were from an "Australian" or Anglo-Celtic background, 5 per cent were Chinese, 3 per cent were Indian and fewer than 1 per cent said they were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. The lack of diversity is a known issue in the sector. A poll last year of 11 of the big commercial firms found while 25 per cent of law graduates and non-partners had an Asian background, only 8 per cent of partners were Asian.