Professor Gus John is to carry out an independent comparative case review to determine if there is any evidence of racism in the way the Solicitors Regulation Authority investigates black and minority ethnic (BME) solicitors.
The SRA, which the Society of Black Lawyers (SBL) earlier this year accused of 'institutional racism', has always denied any bias, saying that most complaints are made about solicitors at small firms - and most BME solicitors work at small firms.
John (pictured), who carried out a similar exercise for the Crown Prosecution Service in 2003, chairs the equality, diversity and social mobility advisory group for the Legal Education and Training Review. His latest appointment is one of a raft of measures agreed by the SRA in May this year as part of its commitment to being fair, proportionate and transparent.
John said: 'I am pleased to have been approached to undertake this review as it is an important exercise for the SRA, and for BME solicitors and their practitioner groups. The review will draw on a number of random cases and the evidence gathered should help the organisation respond to the recent allegation from the SBL that it treats BME solicitors more harshly than their white counterparts.'
SBL chair Peter Herbert said: 'We welcome the involvement of Professor Gus John, but our support is conditional on his having access, unlike Lord Ouseley, to the 14 cases of alleged race discrimination currently being brought against the SRA, which the SRA disclosed in April this year. It is for the professor to set the limit of his audit, not for the SRA to do so before it begins.'
John is expected to complete the report by late autumn.