Pressure points

Bar Barometer fails to define the diversity battleground

According to the Bar Barometer, recently released by the Bar Standards Board and the Bar Council, more pupil barristers went to Oxford or Cambridge than non-Russell Group institutions in 2011/12 (28 per cent vs 25 per cent).

If that statistic makes you shrug with indifference, well done, you’ve passed. If it makes you wonder why it was even included in the report, congratulations, you’ve really raised the bar (pun intended).

The fact is, whether you went to Oxford or Cambridge or Keele or South Bank is no real measure of social diversity. Neither is whether you’re black, white, Asian or any mix of the above.

Yes, having a racially diverse bar and a bar that strives to reflect a fairer gender make-up is important – these elements bring another perspective, but they’re no measure of socio-economic background. Factors that may shed some light on this are whether you were the first in your family to attend university or had free school meals – and they are not included in the report. 


At a time when criminal advocacy is under attack and many are concerned that those from lower income backgrounds are being discouraged from joining up, this is the kind of information that would show the impact the legal aid cuts are having on the front line.

What we can see in the 112-page tome is that more than two-thirds (35.2 per cent) of first-six pupils in 2011/12 period went to fee-paying schools. Another 55 per cent attended state school, with the remaining 10 per cent not providing this information.

To put that into context, a pupil barrister was five times more likely to attend a public school than the average person on the street. Just 7 per cent of schoolchildren attend a fee-paying institution.

It is a startling statistic and one that shows the bar is still the preserve of the wealthy.