First bar census reveals little improvement in diversity statistics

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Readers' comments (12)

  • Sorry, but the figure about 734 chambers is not quite right. There are in fact around 350 chambers, i.e. groups of barristers operating as a set, and then separate to that, working wholly on their own and not in a set, there are around 400 barristers. (Which for some silly old rule are still classed as 'chambers' by the Bar's researchers - but which is really one barrister at home with an internet connection.)
    This 734 figure is an often repeated data error that the Bar's own records and terminology don't help with, and which totally gives the wrong picture of where the Bar is at the moment.
    PS. the number of chambers (i.e. sets) is therefore very small and getting smaller year on year, they have reduced from a high in 1998 of 417 to 343 in 2009.

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  • The Bar is rather like the BBC, a job creation scheme for well-connected 'Oxbridge' graduates.
    Both need root-and-branch reform to be fit for the 21st century.
    The problem is not just the tiny number of ethnic minority and female members, but the drawing of 90%+ of members from <10% of the population in terms of background and schooling. Deal with the second issue and the first will start to change too.

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  • The people who are the leaders within the legal profession do not care about diversity - they just pay lip-service to it because they have to be seen to be politically correct. Therefore, they can get away with taking no action and the rest of us suffer as a result whether it is because of an image problem for the profession as well as a loss of talented people who could practise law if only their talent was recognised, which would be of benefit to everyone, instead of talented people being left out because they did not go to the right school, are not the "right" gender or the "right" colour.

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  • 9.6% BME barristers?

    Given that by ethnicity, the UK population is 8% "non-white", that must mean the bar needs to cut the number of BME barristers by 1.6% , or stand accused of being unrepresentative.

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  • @ Gary | 24-Mar-2011 2:27 am - The percentage of BME is far higher for those of working age, and higher still for those training/ready to enter the profession.

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  • I don't get it. So quotas get taken by specific demographics then? So...for true representative employment, we should be matching up employees across all criteria?
    I can see it working. Let's make sure that there are higher proportions of young female BME barristers and very few at the older end of the age spectrum - to match the country's age distribution. That sounds equitable.
    Or maybe it might be more sensible to accept that the sector is so small that changes is poplation/ethnicity distribution will only make insignificant changes in reality. 5% extra Pakistani males in the 20-30 working age category equates to about a third of an advocate.

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  • I have to agree that the figures are depressing for the bar. I am 38 years old and heading for a 1st in my law degree. Having run my own business and managed to stay solvent throughout arguably the largest recession mine and subsequent generations has seen, you would think I stood a good chance at the Bar.
    Probably not. Why? Because at my age this is obviously a second career (something the Bar does not like) and my degree is not from Oxford/Camebridge or even a "Russell Group" university.
    Does my projected 1st class degree not count for anything?

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  • I would like to know the statistics for those in the profession from working class backgrounds in five years time. There has been some great improvements over the past five years, which allowed for future barristers that cannot afford the 15K fees + living expenses to do he BPTC (Natwest loans of upto 25K) But these have recently been dropped, and the Bar Loans Scheme details of loans (amount) have not yet been released. The maximunm one can get by way of loan is a Proffessional Studies Loan (upto 10K). How on earth are working class people with great potential supposed to gain access to the Bar? This is a situation that has only arose this year as a result of the Natwest decision, yet the BSB has not yet announced how it will combat this years diversity issue. I am on track for a First Class Honour, from a top 5 University, have 10 Mini Pupillages under my belt, all 3 offers from my Bar School applications, yet I can't afford to go to Bar School! Diversity this year is not going to happen. I hope the BSB make some suggestions soon, before the Bar loses able potential barristers.

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  • I'm from a non-Oxbridge University and attended a state school. However, managed to secure pupillage in this year's OLPAS at the first attempt. I don't even have a 1st in my law degree.
    Personally, I think if you try hard enough you'll succeed. As for the diversity issue at the Bar, the Bar is actually above average (see the Bar Council's report on this). Surely it is a case of - if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

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  • @ Justine:

    1 - "Because at my age this is obviously a second career (something the Bar does not like)"

    This is rubbish. The Bar loves people to have had a previous career. In fact, in my experience it si more difficult for students who go straight through from university to Bar School to pupillage stage.

    2 - I do not think that running a successful business necessarily makes you a good barrister. It may do but good at business does not necessarily mean good at the Bar.

    It is true though, to get pupillage you need a good degree from a good university. Why? Because you need strong academics! It is not elitist to say that only the best people make it.

    Let me put it like this...next time you need to visit a hospital, would you like your doctor to be the best person for the job or the person with the socio-economic profile that fits?

    If you are good enough to make it at the Bar - you will. I am from a working class background and did not go to Oxbridge - I got pupillage at the first attempt. I funded my degree and Bar School by holding down part time jobs at evenings, weekends and during the holidays - it is possible! In fact, it sets you up well for the hard work that is to come!

    As for diversity statistics, your background (in terms of race, gender, sexuality etc.) does not matter. I take Gary's point about how statistics can be misleading. I fully support BabyB's comments!

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