Legal drinking culture poses barrier to entry for aspiring Muslim lawyers

Legal drinking culture poses barrier to entry for aspiring Muslim lawyers

A recent report has shed light on the obstacles faced by applicants of Bangladeshi and Pakistani heritage in securing training contracts within City law firms, where drinking culture presents significant challenges for those who abstain from alcohol due to religious beliefs.

Titled "Included? The Experience of British Bangladeshis and Pakistanis in City Law," the report reveals that while Bangladeshi and Pakistani candidates make up over 6% of vacation scheme applications, only 3.9% ultimately receive offers. This indicates a disparity between the application and success rates for these groups.

The success rate for Bangladeshi and Pakistani applicants to vacation schemes stands at a mere 1.8%, compared to 2.8% for all candidates, 2.8% for white candidates, and 2.5% for Black candidates. Although the success rate gap for Black candidates has started to close, it remains significant for those of Bangladeshi and Pakistani descent.

Diversity recruitment specialist Rare, who produced the report, found similar trends in training contract applications. Here, Bangladeshi and Pakistani candidates make up 7% of the applicant pool but only 3.5% of offer recipients. Their success rate is just 1.2%, in contrast to 2.3% for all candidates, 2.8% for white candidates, and 2.1% for Black candidates.

The report highlights several hurdles faced by aspiring lawyers from Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds, such as limited access to professional networks and "social capital," which hinders their ability to understand and navigate the application process effectively.

Researchers emphasised that the law firms' social events, often centred around alcohol consumption in pubs and bars, create an uncomfortable atmosphere for candidates whose religious beliefs preclude drinking. This cultural clash forces them into situations that conflict with their values.

In response, some City law firms have begun to offer 'dry' social events, and many vacation scheme programmes now include alcohol-free activities to foster a more inclusive environment.

Despite the availability of prayer rooms in many firms, candidates reported feeling anxious about leaving their desks to pray, concerned that it might be perceived negatively or impact their evaluations and perceived commitment.

This report calls for increased awareness and further actions to address these cultural and structural barriers, promoting a more inclusive environment for all candidates.

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