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The Government “must practise what it preaches” on social mobility, the Chairman of the Bar Michael Todd QC has said.
In a speech at the Liberal Democrat party conference in Brighton yesterday, Todd said that the soaring cost of education and repeated cuts to publicly-funded fees were making life for the junior Bar particularly difficult.
He said “In December 2011, Nick Clegg gave a speech on the ‘open society’ in which he criticised the legal profession for remaining ‘woefully unrepresentative’. I’m not here simply to take a defensive stance, but it should be acknowledged that the Bar has made impressive progress over the past decade. Of course, there are limits to what we, as a profession, can do to improve social mobility more widely.
“The Government must practise what it preaches. The soaring cost of obtaining an undergraduate degree will not only deter some from going to university in the first place, but also renders the cost of legal training even more intimidating, coming as it does on top of £30,000 of undergraduate debt. And repeated cuts to publicly-funded fees are making legal aid practices difficult to sustain; particularly for the junior Bar.
“There is help available for those with the will and ability to succeed at the Bar, but without the financial means. The biggest challenge is in attracting talented individuals from low-income backgrounds to aim for the Bar in the first place” he said.
Earlier this year the Inner Temple’s groundbreaking social mobility initiative the Pegasus Access Scheme hit the 50-partner milestone after Hardwicke Chambers and Three Raymond Buildings signed up (1 May 2012).