Why the bar really is a meritocracy

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  • "the statistics simply do not support the myths."
    I may be missing something, but as far as I can see, those statistics are just about gender and ethnicity; nothing about background or schooling, which are at least as important.
    I certainly agree that it's possible for someone from a disadvantaged background to become a barrister - but it's much, much harder for them than someone of the same ability with a more privileged upbringing, family or family friends who are barristers and can provide advice and contacts, the money to allow them to gain a lot of unpaid experience, etc.
    You can dismiss that with 'life isn't fair, and you'll have to get used to dealing with the odds being stacked against you', but it's not good for the profession if the playing field isn't level.

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  • Inner Temple have some interesting research on academic background here: http://www.innertemple.org.uk/downloads/prospective-members/Inner-Temple-Prospectus.pdf

    I really think there is a much more level playing field than there used to be in terms of background once you are looking at graduates seeking to become barristers - the number of people from disadvantaged backgrounds getting good exam results and into good universities is a whole other problem; but the old cliche of it's not what you know it's who you know is no longer true of the bar in the way it once was.

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  • Newsflash to Tom: it's much harder for someone from a disadvantaged background, with the same ability as someone from an advantaged background, to do all sorts of things. LIfe isn't fair and this has nothing to do with the Bar or the solicitors' profession providing a level playing field. As a barrister who worked damn hard to get where he did today, I find the number of people posting about how "unfair" things are quite staggering. If that's your view, you're not cut out to succeed in many walks of life, the Bar being just one of many. Get over it.

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  • I agree with the statement that it is a tough profession to enter, but it is tough for a reason. I am not the traditional stereotype but I have succeeded due to determination. I think it's time to stop moaning about how unfair the system is, although I believe that this is one of the cornerstones of our society right now, and develop a strategy on how to succeed

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  • Zoe: thanks for that. Still nothing in there on pre-university stuff that I could see, though? I agree it's no longer about who you know in the old school tie sense, but there definitely seems to be an advantage to those who know the system better, know what they need to do from day 1 of university, or even earlier, and have the support to allow them to do whatever it takes.
    Newsflash to anonymous: you're a prat. No, life isn't fair. So let's try to make it more fair, rather than just sitting around congratulating ourselves on how hard we worked, and how well we've done, and assuming that's a universal causal relationship.

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  • Tom, if you descend to name calling it may be because you either can't or choose not to understand the point. Good luck with your attempts to make life more fair, presumably by outlawing people with family friends who are barristers from applying for pupillage. And congratulations on your conclusion that people who have the support to allow them to do whatever it takes "seem" to have an advantage. Your forensic ability will plainly take you very far so please do let us know the results of your studies into the Pope's alleged catholicism.

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  • Look at top Commercial and Chancery sets. Most of these only have one or two out of twenty at the junior end who were at state schools. The statistics blatently do not support the proposition that there is a level playing field for everyone who wishes to pursue a career as a barrister. Many sets even have individuals who have Eton scholarships etc on their cvs! Some achievement that is...

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  • Doesn't it depend on how you define "level playing field", given what seems a fair assumption that sets have to choose trainee barristers on some basis? And given that the majority (just) of students at Oxbridge are from state schools, don't M's "statistics" also possibly support the proposition that state schools don't encourage their pupils to believe they can be barristers? As I understand it the Bar and many chambers now strive to visit as many state schools as possible to show that it's achievable. The real question which people who complain about the lack of a "level playing field" sometimes seem to dodge is "what exactly would you change about the system to make the Bar do things better?" Ban people with Eton scholarships from applying on the basis that it's not much of an achievement, as M would have it...?!

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  • "if you descend to name calling" ...from the person who began and ended their statement of the obvious with the puerile 'Newsflash' and 'Get over it'.

    As for the Pope being Catholic, it's no more of a surprise to see people who have 'worked hard' and succeeded denying that that could possibly be down to anything except their own merit.

    The logical flaw in repeating 'Life isn't fair' while claiming to have earned their privileged position without undue advantage apparently escapes both the author and 'Anonymous'.

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  • speaking as a customer, I can assure you that I choose barristers on merit alone. Many, but all, are Oxbridge graduates. That's no coincidence - they've been to one of the best two Universities in the world. Why wouldn't a high proportion of them be extremely bright?
    I don't see it as the job of either branch of the legal profession to sort out the mess which successive governments have made of the State education system. Our job is to provide the best possible service to our clients.

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  • "The fact that life may be unfair does not mean that someone who attains a privileged position enjoyed an undue advantage. Discuss." Do let us know how you get on with GCSE Logic, Fin.

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  • Anonymous | 4-Nov-2011 5:35 pm - don't be silly, it's all the Bar's fault for accepting applications from Oxbridge graduates.
    Best,
    Tom & Fin

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  • I have to say that I find the above comments extremely disappointing. Yes life is tough and it is hard to find the job or career that you want. As a qualified Barrister there are so many opportunities out there. The self employed bar is not the only avenue. After pupillage I found a job as an in-house lawyer and earn far more than many of my colleagues at the self employed bar, enjoy company benefits such as large pension, company car and work less hour than I ever did at the bar. I also engage many of my colleagues at the bar to assist the company that I work for. I have had a hugely enjoyable experience as a in house Barrister. There are more than one way to skin a cat

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  • I have read so many disparaging comments about the publically schooled that I wanted to point out something that only a state comprehensive-educated person like myself can say. The reason they succeed in this field is not through genetics or contacts. The simple and sad fact is that public schools teach individuals to excel and speak out. By contrast state schools make you learn to keep your head down. Until that changes, the bar wont.

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  • It has changed and for quite some time, many state schools do teach individuals to excel and speak out.

    However, many making the decisions in the bar are still tethered to the good old public school must be better attitude, as this discussion has shown.

    No wonder there is a continued strong belief the bar looks to the same old types of faces and backgrounds it has always done with some lip service and tokenism for appearances sake.

    This author of this article has a poor understanding of statistics as well as a lamentable ability to persuade anyone of the strength of her argument who is already not firmly rooted in her camp. It seems the interview process failed miserably in the authors case.

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