Racial and sexual discrimination are difficult to get away with in the legal profession; and that’s as it should be.
Interestingly though, this widespread equality culture has 2 vast blind spots.
I’ve written previously about the acceptability of class discrimination, in my blog post entitled “<The bias that nice people will never admit to>”. However, whilst still inexcusable, in the corporate legal world, due to the wine-drinking, golfist nature of corporate lawyers, this is at least explicable by often being largely an unconscious bias. If you spend your entire life “liaising with” middle-class bankers, middle class accountants, and middle-class financiers, and being surrounded by people whose moralism conflates syntactical transgressions with the Geneva Convention, it’s unsurprising if you fail to realise how socially narrow you are.
The other blind spot is age discrimination. It’s everywhere in the legal profession; and, unlike class discrimination, there’s nothing unconscious or thoughtless about it – age discrimination in the legal profession is deliberate, and explicit. Here’s a typical job ad from March 2022:
Look at the number 1 criterion that the successful candidate must possess – “1 – 5 years PQE“. (“PQE” stands for “post-qualification experience”.)
Obviously, where the role calls for someone who can take lead responsibility, a minimum amount of years of PQE is essential. Say, 0 – 3 years PQE for a junior, supporting role, and a minimum 5 years PQE for someone who does not need their hand held. You need a certain amount of experience. When the other side’s lawyer attempts to adjust the wording in a particular way, you need to be able to see through her or his bullshit and think “I know what you’re up to, you slimy bastard!“. You don’t get that kind of experience from reading textbooks; it only comes with experience.
Accordingly, it’s often necessary to stipulate a minimum PQE.
However, there is never any need also to stipulate a maximum PQE. After all, if we wish to go all reductio ad absurdum on this, if the employer in the above ad recruits someone with 5 years’ PQE, does it mean that they must sack them after one year? By that stage, they would have 6 years’ PQE, and therefore fall outside the stipulated requirements lol …
Everyone knows what’s going on here. Everyone knows that the vast majority of law graduates are not mature students. Typically, you start a law degree at 18. You finish it at 21 or 22. You do a year’s professional legal course. You do a year or so of training. By the time you have 1 year’s PQE, you will be 24 or 25. By the time you have 5 years’ PQE, you will be 29 or 30.
The job ad might as well just state its lead criterion as: “must be aged between 24 and 29“.
In theory, pursuant to the UK’s Equality Act 2010, this sort of discrimination is illegal:
And if the foregoing wasn’t simple enough to understand, there is readily-available clear guidance – here’s Age UK’s guidance:
Despite the straightfoward nature of the foregoing legislation, and despite such readily-available clear guidance, it is nonetheless routinely ignored and un-enforced; and, ironically, it’s law firms who are the worst transgressors .
Experienced, old and working class? On your bike, mate!
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