The lack of diversity in the legal profession has gained widespread media attention with respect to the appointment of senior members of the judiciary. The Judicial Services Commission has come under scrutiny for its appointment patterns, decision-making processes and the extent to which the constitutional imperatives of racial and gender diversity are reflected in its recommendations to the President. There seems to have been a specific emphasis on race and not gender, where racial transformation has advanced, albeit slowly, and gender transformation has had a much slower growth pattern.
The South African legal profession as a whole continues to face the challenge of meaningful transformation. The top positions in the profession, from senior partners of law firms, to senior counsel at the bar and senior members of the judiciary, remain homogenous. The debate around diversity of the judiciary should include a discussion about the profession as a whole, challenging the oft-cited binary of ‘talent or diversity’: talent and diversity are not alternatives, and diversity is not inconsistent with talent and ability.
The panel discussion will look at the process for the appointment of judges, and at the need for the transformation of the legal profession as a whole.