Vivian Robinson QC, Treasurer of Inner Temple, and Desmond Browne QC, then Chairman of the Bar Council, stressed that the Bar Council, the Inns, the Circuits and the Specialist Bar Associations have worked together to make the various initiatives successful and that the Bar was not now resting on its laurels. Much work still needed to be done, as well as developing current initiatives such as the Bar Council’s chambers placement scheme (run with the Social Mobility Foundation and supported by the Inns of Court), Inner Temple’s schools project (run in collaboration with the National Education Trust) as well as the Bar Mock Trial Competition and the “Speak Up for Others – a Career as a Barrister” scheme.
Duncan Matthews QC, Chairman of the Neuberger Monitoring and Implementation Group, said that the Bar has long recognised that recruitment on merit alone is the right approach and this is for two key reasons:
- Firstly, self-interest, as recruitment on merit alone will ensure excellence at the Bar.
- Secondly, a belief in fairness, which is a key foundation of the Bar.
He added that Neuberger was not the first attempt by the Bar to grapple with the problem of ensuring that merit was the key feature in recruitment but the previous attempts tended to focus directly on entry and searched for one solution. The Neuberger Report was ground-breaking because it recognised that there was not one simple solution and the focus had to be much wider than simply the point of entry.
David Johnston, CEO of the Social Mobility Foundation, emphasised the important role played by the Bar in its internship programme and how it has helped to bring other professions on board.
Two students who took part in Inner Temple’s schools project spoke enthusiastically about how a new world of opportunities had been opened to them which they would not otherwise have encountered and which gave them a new sense of self-belief.
David Lammy MP ended the session by praising the initiatives that the Bar has put in place and emphasising the importance of continuing this work.
A copy of “No bar to the Bar: barristers promoting social mobility” is available from the Bar Council (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit: www.barcouncil.org.uk/assets/documents/No%20bar%20to%20the%20Bar%20final.
Bhavna Patel is the Bar Council Professional Practice and Training Manager