He was the Chairman of the Society of Asian Lawyers (SAL) and one of its founding members. The Society is one of the largest BAME societies for legal professionals with over 2000 members. RLC spoke to Sailesh Mehta about SAL and how the legal sector needs to continue to promote and champion diversity throughout the profession:
1. Tell us how you became involved in SAL?
A few BAME lawyers decided that there was a need for Asian lawyers to promote fairness and equality within the profession and we founded the Society of Asian Lawyers.
2. What campaigns did you lead on during your time as the Chairman there?
I was involved in a number of campaigns including firstly to increase the number of BAME Judges. I also opposed the Government’s attempt to reduce the number of Legal Aid firms by at least 50% and bring in “price competitive tendering” in which the lowest bidder would provide legal services in a geographical area; we sought judicial review of the decision which resulted in PCT being put off for many years. Finally I am always campaigning for the unceasing number of entrants to the profession.
3. What changes have you seen in your time as an Asian lawyer spanning 30 years?
There have been huge changes within the industry generally and also for the Asian lawyer. It is clear when attending the Annual Awards ceremony, that the playing field is becoming more level for Asian lawyers – there are more senior partners of firms, more QCs and more Judges.
4. What did it mean to get recognised at the SAL 2019 Awards Ceremony?
It is pleasing to be a part of the change that has taken place and to receive recognition for it; But I remind myself that the generation before me was the one that fought the greatest battles and suffered greater hardships; what they did changed our lives for the better.
5. What work do you hope to continue in the future at RLC and across the Bar in relation to diversity and inclusion?
The greatest challenge now is to ensure that class and poverty are not barriers to entry to the profession.