We have recently been approached by a law firm based in Abu Dhabi asking us to assist them in the provision of barristers or solicitors to work in their law firm. The tone of the email is very straightforward, the firm sound a very nice practice to work for, and the person who has emailed us is female.
Our dilemma is that we try to avoid working for Middle Eastern law firms because we are very uncomfortable with the way they recruit, whether this is implied or in practice, in that they very often do not seem to recruit lawyers with African sounding names, sometimes not with Asian sounding names, and on many occasions definitely not female lawyers. It is difficult for us to determine whether the law firm who have been in touch recently have any practices or policies that we would be uncomfortable with unless we send over CVs. What should we do?
The answer is that we do not work with Middle Eastern law firms. We do not feel comfortable with the whole ethos of sending over CVs for vacancies knowing there is a high probability of the law firm not recruiting them because the person is female or because their name doesn’t sound right to that particular law firm. When Middle Eastern law firms start implementing the same equal opportunity policies that law firms do in the UK and the West, we will be happy to work with them. I suspect they are many light years away from this.
Although we appreciate we may well be turning down substantial amounts of money with this particular stance, we feel it is the right thing to do (to borrow an overused expression by politicians), and as such are sticking by our guns until a time we start to see better equal opportunities and lack of discrimination in these particular countries. We have to say that we do find it bizarre that some of the large law firms in the world work with these countries and in these countries knowing that this discrimination is utterly rife. I won’t start a conversation in this article on the high level of corruption and blackmail that seems to occur regularly in some Middle Eastern states and the willingness of solicitors in London to take their shillings and look the other way….