Ethnic minority students less likely to get pupillage

Students from ethnic minority backgrounds were around half as likely to obtain pupillage as white graduates, according to a report published by the Bar Standards Board (BSB).

While 73% of white students who obtained an ‘outstanding’ grade on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) got a pupillage last year, only 59% of their ethnic minority counterparts did. For those who passed with a ‘very competent grade’, 39% of white students got pupillage compared to 22% of those from an ethnic minority background.

Looking at university results, 59% of white students who achieved a first class degree got pupillage, compared to 41.5% of ethnic minority students. The gap widened for those with a 2:1 – 39% of white students with an upper second class degree got a pupillage, compared with 18% of those from an ethnic minority background.

The report, Heads above the parapet: How can we improve race equality at the Bar? found that while 12% of barristers come from ethnic minority backgrounds – roughly the same as in the general population – the senior Bar is less diverse, with only 7% of ethnic minority QCs.

It also found that ethnic minority barristers are over-represented in certain areas of practice. They are more likely to be employed or to be sole practitioners and less likely to be in chambers.

Leslie Thomas QC, joint head of Garden Court Chambers, said that although things had changed since he was Called to the Bar in 1988, he still experienced discrimination and was often not perceived as being his client’s lawyer at court.

He said chambers should do more than ‘paying lip service’ to promoting diversity, and called for a kite mark to demonstrate best practice with chambers held to account for non-compliance.

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