Right from the days of Macon Bolling Allen and Charlotte E Ray, the underrepresentation of blacks has been a major deficit in the legal industry. Recent statistics and data has proven that the situation has taken a more devastating outcome, considering the decline and lack of professional upward mobility for blacks in the legal profession.
The Vault and Minority Corporate Counsel Association Law Firm Diversity Survey in the UK in 2019 revealed that black lawyers made up 4.83% of associates and only 1.94% of equity partners. White lawyers made up 73.38% of associates and 89.87% of equity partners. And that generally, black lawyers are also underrepresented relative to other minorities. From another analysis, the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment report, shows that White workers make up 77.6% of the total civilian labor force, Black workers comprise 12.5%, and Asian workers make up 6.3%. By comparison, White workers comprise 79.2% of the legal occupations labor force, while African-American workers make up just 10.6%, and Asian workers account for 8.2%.
Furthermore, the situation is not different in certain legal departments. For instance, Black General Counsel 2025 Initiative, reported that blacks make up only a miniscule percentage of partners and associates in the UK’s leading corporate law firms. Besides, in England and Wales, black people make up only 3% of solicitors out of 21% of BAME lawyers. Several key inclusion metrics provide a similar result in other areas of law.
As a result of these appalling statistical realities, certain creative initiatives are been made to address the issue of racial dichotomy. One which readily comes to mind is the the Mansfield Rule meant to boost the representation of diverse lawyers in law firms. The Mansfield Rule Certification measures whether law firms have affirmatively considered at least 30 percent women, attorneys of color, LGBTQ+ and lawyers with disabilities for leadership and governance roles, equity partner promotions, formal client pitch opportunities, and senior lateral positions.
Also, a remarkable initiative meant to a aid black representation in law is the recent invention, Black Interns Matter, founded by Samuel Clague. Black Interns Matter is designed to directly address the underrepresentation of black people in the legal world and provide opportunities and access to those who need it most. The initiative is meant to widen accessibility to the legal world for young aspiring black professionals through The Stephen James Partnership (SJP), which is a market-leading Paralegal, Contract Lawyer and Lawyer supplier in the UK, designed to help legal professionals find legal work through a respected channel and partnership.
How does Black Interns Matter work?
Prospective interns submit their CVs at firstname.lastname@example.org and fill out the Black Interns Matter registration form. Subsequently, the organizers will then try to match Interns with an internship opportunities!
What is the criteria?
Prospective interns need to be of black or black/mixed heritage. Unlike some other programmes, Interns do not need ABB at A level and a 2:1 at university. Applications are welcome regardless of age, experience or academic background.
Who will be chosen?
Black Interns Matter aims to support as many black Interns as possible. The selection process is means tested, as it seeks to engage with those who will benefit most from these opportunities.
Where will the interns be based?
Given the current climate, Interns may be offered a remote internship or be based at the client’s offices.
What will the Interns receive as Accredited JSP Interns?
✓ Business attire for your internship.
✓ A daily lunch allowance.
✓ A travel allowance.
✓ Monthly access to career bootcamps and coaching events.
✓ Access to mentors (who will all have undertaken the internship programme).
What it means to be a black SJP intern.
• Interns will be given the opportunity to shine and access organisations they may not have previously been aware of.
• Interns will have the opportunity to make industry contacts and (hopefully) friends within the legal profession.
• Interns will be part of a fantastic community, and will be supported before, during and after their internships.
• Interns will feel confident setting foot in the office on the first day, as the organizers intens to provide them with suits and provide on-going support.
• Interns will be helping to support other Black students, as for each internship, certain contributions towards funding the legal education of Black students will be made.
Black Interns Matter provides an opportunity for black people in law to be a part of a wider network and community of like-minded individuals, pulling towards the same end goal of increased representation at the highest levels in the legal industry.
The writer is an Ambassador at the Black Interns Matter Initiative and a Contributor at the Economic Misfit.