Linda Cho, Asian Australian Lawyers Association committee member, addresses the continued importance of diversity within the legal profession, ahead of the upcoming ‘Why Diversity?’ panel discussion.
The diverse panel of speakers will share what they have experienced personally as people from different backgrounds working in the legal industry.
Solicitor Linda Cho sees value in connecting individuals for the purpose of discussing diversity and learning from others’ unique lived experiences. She emphasises the positive impact storytelling can have in raising awareness of diversity issues to be further considered within the profession.
“Experiences ranging from discomfort from adverse comments made towards us by colleagues or clients; frustration in struggling to find the right words when, in fact, there is no English translation for the term we are thinking of; or simply the unique feeling that arises from dreaming in another language,” she said.
“With storytelling, people hearing can empathise and relate to those who may seem different to them and hopefully this allows for greater understanding and celebration of how important diversity is within our profession, and makes us better lawyers in the long run.
Linda believes the legal profession should be at the forefront of standing up for the minority and for the vulnerable, and that by acknowledging diversity and celebrating the strengths of those who have come from diverse backgrounds, the legal profession sends a message to the broader community that people from all walks of life are entitled to receive legal assistance.
She thinks that increased acknowledgement of diversity may also prompt people from diverse backgrounds who might have been hesitant to join the profession, to reconsider. On the other hand, if the profession fails to recognise society’s diversity, she understands that this sets up unintentional barriers, causing community members to think twice before seeking help from a legal practitioner.
“Whilst growing up in my Korean Australian community, there were countless times where friends would hesitate to seek the assistance of a lawyer unless they could find a lawyer who was either Korean or at least from an East Asian background,” she said.
“They felt as though their limited English skills and the cultural differences prevented them from being properly understood and represented. They were frightened to even make the initial call.”
For many people in Australia, English is their second or third language and Linda has witnessed issues with language barriers play out in courts.
“Although the courts have translating services available, I have seen at times, where there is no translator available for certain Aboriginal languages, or when the translating service is not as much help as anticipated. It is important for those who have not lived with these struggles to understand how difficult these barriers can be and to show grace when dealing with such situations.”
Linda has seen the legal profession improve in its consideration of diversity since she first began studying law and is hopeful this trend continues. Going forward, she believes that it is important for senior members of the legal profession to outwardly show support for lawyers who come from diverse backgrounds.
“I hope our profession keeps diversifying, breaking the stereotype of what a lawyer should look like and is willing to continually reflect on how we can embrace diversity within our profession.”
Pasifika Lawyers Association of Queensland, Indigenous Lawyers Association Queensland, Queensland African Lawyers Network, Asian Australian Lawyers Lawyers Association, QLS Diverse Abilities Network, Women Lawyers Association Queensland and Pride in Law, will gather for the first time to discuss ‘Why Diversity?’ matters and work towards effecting further positive change within the legal profession.
The ‘Why Diversity?’ event, being held on 28 September, is now sold out. To be added to the waitlist, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.