The Judicial Diversity Taskforce has singled out the Bar Council’s schools outreach programme for praise in its first progress report.
According to the report, work has begun on each of the 53 recommendations made by the Advisory Panel on Judicial Diversity, chaired by Baroness Neuberger, which reported in 2010. One of these recommendations was to set up the Taskforce.
It praises the efforts of the legal profession and government legal bodies to broaden the profile of the judiciary. The Bar, for example, organised 48 mini-pupillages for school pupils last year, and is extending the initiative outside London this year. It has revised careers materials to challenge myths and assumptions about careers at the Bar, and also runs Mock Trial competitions for school pupils. Barristers visit about 500 schools each year on a career at the Bar. The Employed Barristers Committee has promoted judicial opportunities to its members.
The Bar Council has appointed Circuit Diversity Mentors, it says, to encourage greater diversity in applications for judicial appointment. They organise outreach events, and provide mentoring support to those in chambers where there is little experience of judicial appointment.
Judges have joined with the Bar Council, Law Society and ILEX in outreach work. The Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) now prepares feedback reports to help candidates for judicial office understand what is required, and the judiciary has introduced mentoring for deputy district judges and new judges in the high court.
However, the report emphasises that there is “no room for complacency”.
Chris Stephens, chair of the Judicial Appointments Commission, said: “Women [and] black and minority ethnic lawyers are applying in larger numbers and are doing well in entry-level posts and solicitors are performing better in entry and middle ranking posts” but more “needs to be done ... to maintain and enhance an end-to-end system that is fair, selects only on merit and attracts a higher calibre of candidates from all backgrounds.”