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Women are failing to make any significant ground in terms of their overall representation at the bar, despite accounting for almost half of new barristers.
The latest statistics from the Bar Council show that, while 48.9 per cent of those called to the bar during 2005 were women, only 32.9 per cent of all practising barristers are female.
Women are a smaller group at the self-employed bar than in employed practice, accounting for 45.3 per cent of employed barristers but just 30 per cent of self-employed practitioners.
Meanwhile, the number of female pupils dropped to just 251, or 47.6 per cent of all pupils, from 281 (49.1 per cent) in 2004. Overall pupillage numbers continued a recent decline, falling by 8 per cent to a total of 527 from 572 pupils the previous year.
Despite falling numbers of pupils, more young lawyers were called to the bar in 2005. In total, 1,476 were called, representing a 7.9 per cent rise on the 1,368 who were called in 2004. The practising bar grew, albeit only by 1.8 per cent, from 14,364 to 14,623 over the same period.
The percentage of pupils who come from ethnic minority backgrounds is greater than in the bar as a whole, with ethnic minorities accounting for 16.9 per cent of 2005's pupils.
Overall the figure drops to 11 per cent, and falls further among self-employed barristers. Just 10.2 per cent of those practising in chambers are from an ethnic minority.
Although there have been several mergers and dissolutions of barristers' chambers during the past year, the total number of chambers across England and Wales rose in 2005 to 360. Most of those - 212 - are in London.