In making this programme, the BBC has been given unprecedented access to the courts, members of the profession, the Chairman of the Bar, Circuits, Inns and law schools. The documentary reveals the true nature of life at the Bar, cutting through the stereotypical image so loved by some sections of the media and depicts a profession that was the first to implement a real plan to encourage access to those from non-traditional backgrounds – women, ethnic minorities and the economically underprivileged.
The Barristers takes a fly on the wall view of the public service work which is done by barristers in the publicly-funded field. The work of family lawyers helping couples and children to disentangle themselves in the wake of marital breakdown is candidly shown, as well as criminal practitioners prosecuting and defending those accused of crime. The long hours and hard work put in by barristers on behalf of their clients, often the most disadvantaged in society, is plainly shown.
The Bar has always been a competitive environment. The documentary follows students through the gruelling process from Bar School to their first steps in the profession – a pupillage – and finally to a permanent position – a tenancy. It is noteworthy that today a majority of students called to the Bar who obtain a pupillage are women. The documentary reflects this facet of a profession moving with the times.
The Chairman of the Bar Council, Tim Dutton QC, said: “For all of us at the Bar Council it has been a pleasure to workwith the BBC on this documentary. Historically, the Bar has been somewhat misunderstood and cast as an elitist profession. This documentary will sweep these prejudices away. It is a valuable opportunity for our profession to demonstrate its diversity and inclusiveness, to a public which seldom comes across its members but whose lives and livelihoods depend on them when they do.
The Bar Council has taken great strides over many years to improve access to the profession. It is implementing many of the 2007 recommendations of Lord Neuberger about widening access and works with partners such as the Social Mobility Foundation to ensure that, whatever their background, those who hope to join the profession can do so. The Barristers dispels the prejudice that the Bar is a public school, boys’ club. The Bar is a unique institution in British life. Its members uphold the rule of law, and discharge a duty to the Court, and to the system of justice. Barristers provide an essential public service. The Barristers shows the tireless work done for declining reward in the public sector by the profession on behalf of those most in need. Anyone who can watch this documentary and still trot out the ‘fat cats’ cliché has clearly not been paying attention.”