Susan Belgrave, barrister, 9 Gough Square

Narrow minds and own goals

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  • Whilst this is a good article, it doesn't explain what happens when those few from "disadvantaged backgrounds" make it to the Bar. The money earned, particularly if you are at the criminal bar and take on legal aid cases, is miniscule. Criminal barristers are often forced to fund themselves on £300 - £600 per month. This barely covers travel as barristers based at Chambers in London are often sent to places like Brighton, Doncaster and Manchester on their meagre earnings. Then factor in rent, bills, clothing, textbooks etc. The government does not pay barristers legal aid cases like any normal debtor or client would. Those from "disadvantaged backgrounds" that have been able to rise above the social exclusion will have to deal with this. As their/their families pockets are not deep, many are forced to quit the Bar as it is no longer sustainable. This leaves the wealthy individuals at the bar. At every turn, those who are from "disadvantaged backgrounds" will find themselves at a disadvantage against their wealthy peers. What is the government going to do about that?

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  • good article - people sometimes forget that irrespective of race or social background - the bar is a daunting prospect and it takes enormous courage to undertake the gruelling training at great financial cost. Unless you are the rare breed of an eternal optimist this is likely to take its emotional toll as well. Those privileged to have had the path cleared for them (from supportive family members) can embark upon such a course with greater confidence (despite the challenges that they will also face). I don't believe in positive discrimination for those socially underprivileged but I do believe a genuine message of support and encouragement (the emphaise on genuine) that those with the talent and courage will be rewarded.

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  • I can only see things getting worse - no matter how wide the bar wishes to throw open its arms. It costs so much to get to the stage of pupilage who in the right mind would risk becoming a criminal barrister and stomach the massive debts that entails? You would need to be crazy or rich. When my working class and Asian cousin asked my advice I said to do something else unless he felt it like a vocation akin to becoming a priest. Its the only level of dedication that will do for people from our background. I, alas, quit the bar as I did not have that level of dedication.

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  • Good article although how much responsibility and self honesty do black people take for not being polished enough. Even middle class whites find it tough to make it into the bar. Education is not just about exam results and mental dexterity. It is about a whole host of things that make Barristers what they are. Therefore, this is not a black and a white thing - it is an elitsm thing. And is not a good thing that Barristers require only the elite to join their ranks? Black or white? And if there are not enough blacks to make the grade then shouldn't we be looking elsewhere in order to help black people into the Bar?

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  • the bar.What an outdated and out of touch profession.Is it not time to be like other countries and have one lawyer rather than the current split in the legal profession.People from so called ethnic minorities have more chance qualifying as a solicitor.

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  • Does it matter that the bar is out of touch? It is not a social institution. Its purpose is to deliver world class legal excellence and ensure the highest of standards. Do we really care if they are a bit stuffy, wear trousers above their ankles, and have hairy nostrils. So long as everyone has the opportunity to join them ....if they make the grade. I really don't think the bar will benefit from being "socially cleansed" purely because we think it is about time.

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  • Anonymous | 9-Mar-2012 12:52 pm...

    Couldn't agree with you more, apart from the nostrils. As long as everyone has the chance, if they make the grade, should be the mantra.

    The Bar is not well-placed even to attempt to redress underlying issues concerning a lack of social or educational mobility. What it can do is make sure that everyone who is bright enough to succeed knows that there is a Bar out there who would love to have them on board, if they are good enough.

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