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Inner Temple spearheads social mobility initiative for university graduates
It is an understatement to say that the bar has struggled to shake off its stereotype of being dominated by white, middle-class, male barristers. But in a bid to dispel what it calls “outdated and inaccurate” typecasts, Inner Temple is following City firms’ lead by launching its own Prime-style, equal opportunities initiative.
Inner Temple has teamed up with 43 partner sets to roll out the Pegasus Access Scheme (PAS) to give candidates from underrepresented backgrounds the opportunity to take part in a range of mini-pupillages. Among the partners are Fountain Court, Blackstone Chambers, Wilberforce Chambers and 3 Verulam Buildings.
Chair of the Inner Temple Outreach Committee James Dingemans QC said: “No one institution can address all of the issues surrounding social mobility and access to the professions, but everyone has a responsibility to do what can be done to break down any potential barriers to entry.”
Like Prime, the criteria for PAS includes the requirement for candidates to have attended a state school, to be in the first generation of their family to go into higher education and to have been eligible for free school meals. They will need to demonstrate strong academics by being predicted, or to have received, 2:1 degrees and need to demonstrate interpersonal and self-motivation skills.
However, unlike Prime, PAS is aimed at university students or recent graduates, with preference given to participants in Pathways to Law, the Inner Temple Schools Project, the Social Mobility Foundation or the Warwick Multicultural Scholars’ Programme.
The three- to five-day scheme will be unpaid, but chambers will cover reasonable expenses.
Key to the success of both initiatives is longitudinal research on their effectiveness. The Inner Temple will work with an academic expert in access to the law in a three-year evaluation.
PAS is certainly a step forward for the bar. But with the prospect of shelling out £16,000 for the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) awaiting PAS candidates, coupled with a severe lack of funding options, there is still some way to go to sufficiently widen access to the profession.