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Lawyers are in a position to challenge the laws, institutions and policies that may entrench racism, according to a new guide for the profession.

Introductory Guidance and Strategies for the Legal Profession has been launched by the Law Society of NSW to mark International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

“We live in one of the most successful multicultural nations in the world, yet racism persists in our society and extends into our workplaces,” said Law Society President Brett McGrath.

The guide says addressing racism requires a “proactive stance to oppose racist beliefs, systems and practices.”

Lawyers and legal professionals, it says, have an important role to play.

“Responding to racism enlivens the ethical obligations of all lawyers to uphold principles of fairness, justice and equality across all aspects of their practice of the law, including the way in which they behave in the workplace, and deliver services to clients from diverse communities.”

Highlighting the relevance of eliminating racism in the practice of law, the guide urges lawyers to use their training and skills to challenge “laws and systems which enable the conditions for injustices to go unchecked.”

Legal practices are urged to clearly state in their workplace policies that “racially-based discrimination, harassment or bullying is inconsistent with the professional and ethical standards demanded of legal practitioners and could constitute a professional conduct issue.”

McGrath said if lawyers are to better serve our diverse communities, they need to remove discrimination within their own ranks.

“This isn’t only important from a moral perspective, but it also makes business sense, because our profession, our workplaces and our clients are all diverse,” he said.

The guidance was launched at a function in Sydney last night, attended by Liverpool Local Court Magistrate Imad Abdul-Karim, who was the first graduate of Western Sydney University to be appointed to the bench.

McGrath thanked Magistrate Abdul-Karim for giving his time and insights to the profession.

“His is a particularly inspiring story, which included six months of taxi driving after resigning from his first law firm, later becoming one of the leading prosecutors of terrorism cases in Australia with the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions,” he said.