Bar Council welcomes panel on fair access to the professions

 THE Chairman of the Bar Council, Desmond Browne QC, welcomed the first meeting of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions, part of the Commission on social mobility chaired by former Cabinet Minister the Rt Hon Alan Milburn MP.

The Bar continues to work hard to promote access for the able, regardless of background, and welcomes this opportunity to share best practice with other professions. Bar initiatives, which are ongoing, have included a partnership with the Social Mobility Foundation, which enables talented children from low income families to experience life at the Bar first hand. Barristers mentor children from such backgrounds and the profession is working with universities and schools to ensure that students have the necessary knowledge about the Bar on which to base career decisions. Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury chaired a working group which, in November 2007, made 57 recommendations to improve access to the Bar; these recommendations are being actively implemented to ensure that the barristers of the future are able to realise their dreams, regardless of background.

Commenting on the first meeting of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions, Desmond Browne QC, the Chairman of the Bar, said: “Since Lord Neuberger delivered his report in November 2007, the Bar Council has made significant progress toward implementing his recommendations. This progress can be followed on the Bar Council website under the Neuberger Monitoring and Implementation Group, chaired by Duncan Matthews QC, which has been instrumental in coordinating our achievements to date.

We shall not rest on our laurels, but some real progress has been achieved. Among pupil barristers there is now a slight majority of women. The number of black and ethnic minority entrants to the profession has risen steadily and we continue to reach out to those whose backgrounds might – wrongly – make them think that a career at the Bar is beyond their reach.

Where any graduate with the necessary ability aspires to join our profession, social, cultural or economic factors must not prevent them. We are not there yet, but the Bar is moving in the right direction. We must build on our achievements so that the Bar continues to lead the way on inclusivity. We shall be following the progress of the Panel with great interest, and are keen to learn from the approach of other professions.”