Geoffrey Vos QC, the new chair of the Bar Council, has vowed 2007 will be the year that the wheels are firmly set in motion to make the bar more representative of society.
“I’m determined to see major progress,” Vos told The Lawyer. “It was in 1978 that Peter Goldsmith first asked the question and no real headway has been made.”
Vos, who is head of 3 Stone Buildings, explained that a bar that is representative of society was essential to “the survival of the profession.”
“The public will be assured by special advocates who understand their background and this in turn will make them confident in the quality of the bar,” he said.
To push the agenda forward a working party led by Lord Neuberger kicked off a review of access to the bar last October. The recommendations will be revealed in April and Vos is hoping for “radical proposals”.
Vos, who took silk in 1993, wants to see Neuberger’s committee propose the introduction of a bar-endorsed loan scheme for BVC and university students.
He believes that the scheme would make access to the bar “a level playing field” for students who do not have monetary backing from their parents.
“Since the introduction of top-up fees, students from poorer social backgrounds end up with up to £40,000 of debt after completing their BVC, which is an insuperable hurdle to overcome,” Vos explained.
The bar chair added that the scheme would also mean that people who do not have the tenacity for the law would be weeded out early on, allowing higher-calibre students to enter the job market.
Vos, who was named The Lawyer’s Barrister of the Year in 2003, said: “Though we want to see more representation, this cannot be at the expense of the high standards of the profession.
“These graduates will, after all, be the future of the profession, where quality and ethics must continue to be the bedrock of the bar.”