Letter: Ethnic targeting misses the mark

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The Independent Online
Sir: In your leading article 'A move to correct the bias of solicitors' (19 April) you admit that the adoption of quotas for recruitment of ethnic minorities by solicitors is undesirable. I fail to see how the imposition of 'targets' for minority recruitment can be any more desirable, except in the bland PR-speak of those who will be called upon to justify their non-attainment.

Consider an employee from an ethnic minority ('Mr Black') who is already employed by a firm of solicitors predominantly staffed by the ethnic majority ('White & Co'). At present Mr Black can have confidence that his employers have selected him on ability; more important, his clients can have confidence in that selection. Indeed, if you were right about the degree of 'unthinking' prejudice that will have operated against him at the recruitment stage, his clients should be even more confident.

Now suppose that White & Co is subject to 'regular monitoring of progress towards targets'. Are not Mr Black's clients going to wonder whether he might be in employment in order to satisfy that target? Might they not suspect, possibly quite wrongly, that their legal case is being used to fulfil that target?

Your comparison with the Bar's target of 5 per cent is humbug. Barristers' Chambers are associations of self-employed practitioners who guarantee no minimum earnings, or even minimum levels of work, to members. As far as I am aware, the Bar is not targeting any percentage of earnings; if it is, I would like to know how it proposes it should be attained.

You can 'target' an apple on your child's head safely enough, provided that the bow will not shoot that far.

Yours faithfully,


London, W1