Bar anti-ageism rule on the cards

A BAR Council working party set up to tackle ageism in the profession is calling for a clause explicitly outlawing age discrimination to be incorporated into the Bar's code of conduct.

The group's chair, Martin Bowley QC, has written to Robert Owen QC, chair of the Bar Council, calling for the new clause following the publication of figures which reveal significant levels of discrimination against mature Bar School students seeking pupillages.

The group was set up late last year by the Bar Council's sex discrimination committee, but it has only recently seen the figures from Pach, the Bar's pupillage application clearing house system.

They provide the first hard evidence of the extent of age discrimination suffered by mature pupillage applicants.

Last year 45 per cent of the student barristers seeking pupillages were under 25, but the group secured 65 per cent of the available offers. The group aged between 25 and 30, who made up 31 per cent of the total pool of applicants, received only 23 per cent of the offers.

The success rate for the over 30s was even lower.

“I am not surprised at the difficulties faced by the over 30s seeking pupillage,” said Bowley, who was behind the successful campaign four years ago to include a sexual orientation clause in the Bar's anti-discrimination rules.

“What is really surprising is that the over 25s are getting significantly fewer offers than applicants who are aged between 20 and 25.

“That indicates that the Bar is just being stupid; it is ignoring people with good qualifications and valuable experience.”

He added that the proposed clause would be a short-term measure to alleviate a problem which required a long-term strategy.

Bar Council equal opportunities officer Pamela Bhalla said a clause prohibiting ageism would be a useful benchmark. But she added that the Bar needed to undergo a culture change before a long-term solution to the problem could be found.