Disabled people face severe difficulties entering, staying, and progressing at the Bar. The groundbreaking Legally Disabled? reports by Cardiff University give a complete account of the difficulties. Undoubtedly, the Bar is slowly addressing these barriers. The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has its own Disability Taskforce, and the Inns are taking equality and inclusion much more seriously, as evidenced by Middle Temple’s Disability Forum and Inner Temple’s specific disability grants. Chambers are also more receptive to disabled applicants and the duty to provide reasonable adjustments. The Association of Disabled Lawyers, AllBar, Bringing Dis(ability) to the Bar and other Bar-focused disability organisations continue to succeed.

There is a thriving and ever-growing network of young, openly disabled pupils and juniors to support and guide each other within the profession. However, there is still a lot to do. The Bar is falling short of adequately representing the disabled population and doing justice to the disabled people trying to enter or stay in the profession. Continuing to remove barriers and increase representation should be a work of A.R.T.: Attract, Retain and Trajectory.


Attracting disabled pupils and barristers adds to the dynamism of the Bar. Diversity increases innovation, creativity and strategic thinking because barristers from different backgrounds can draw upon their unique experiences. A more comprehensive range of knowledge can spark new, innovative approaches to practice. Only attracting the traditional mould of a barrister leads to a restricted understanding of life experience and a lack of diverse thinking and problem-solving. Removing barriers to disabled applicants also assists the Bar with accessing the best talent. Failure to adapt can also lead to losing other, non-disabled talent; an Indeed survey showed that 17% of recruits identify inclusivity and diversity in the hiring process as among the top factors in developing a positive connection with the organisation during the interview stage.

A good starter is to ensure websites, literature, and messaging authentically commit to disability inclusion. This commitment should also be demonstrable in actions. For example, ensure that it is clear whether your building is wheelchair accessible; if not, state what adjustments can be implemented for those who need it. Myriad accessibility information should be available on websites. Showing your commitment will show potential applicants that your chambers or Inn is improving and wants to welcome disabled people.

Access programmes can provide alternative pathways for disabled aspiring barristers into the Bar. The supportive educational environment access programmes create helps prepare future barristers for the personal and academic challenges they will face. These programmes could include work experience; they should be financially supported to minimise barriers. Another way to open the doors to disabled talent is to provide mentoring and networking opportunities. These allow successful practitioners to pass on their experience, knowledge, and skills to future generations who may otherwise be excluded. There is an additional value added if mentors are also disabled. Bringing Dis(ability) to the Bar often seeks mentors and may welcome collaboration.

Chambers wishing to attract disabled talent should be explicit and include information on requesting reasonable adjustments. Direct information informs disabled talent that their interest is proactively welcome. Once disabled applicants have been attracted, all application forms and processes need to be accessible. For example, forms should be compatible with assistive technology. Furthermore, the assessment criteria and the weightings within those criteria should also be reviewed. They should recognise the adversity and limited opportunities available to disabled applicants because of the barriers to education and work. Moreover, interviewing panels should be as diverse as possible to increase understanding of life experiences and diversify the assessment against the criteria. Additionally, providing as much feedback as possible at each stage tells candidates where to improve and encourages them to try again.

These measures will improve the attractiveness of your chambers and Inn to disabled talent and remove the barriers to them joining. Opening the proverbial door is the first step in enhancing disability inclusion.


Retaining your disabled talent starts with setting a positive culture towards disability in your chambers or Inn before they arrive. Communicating with the new joiner from the outset conveys willingness and enables the identification of specific measures needed by that individual. Working closely with disability-focused Bar organisations can help; most of these work with accessibility experts and have barristers with personal experience. You can build on this knowledge with regular training on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and prejudice to increase everyone’s depth of understanding – from the most senior positions to those just starting their careers. Barristers taking on leadership roles should be trained to a higher level and those taking silk or judicial appointments should undertake enhanced EDI training.

These measures will provide the foundations for an environment where people can communicate their problems, needs, and what they need to reach their goals. Trained people will be better equipped to listen, even if they need help understanding the required support. As time passes, institutionalised knowledge is built of the different kinds of support people might need. The knowledge of what colleagues and staff need can be recorded so everybody can understand what support is in place and how it operates. However, a strong culture requires a zero-tolerance approach and appropriate sanctions for bullying, harassment or discrimination. Leaders should stand up for colleagues and create inclusive cultures that acknowledge and support differences at social events.

Support and nurturing programmes for new practitioners, run by senior juniors from diverse backgrounds, are one example of a scheme to help participants build and sustain a successful practice. These programmes could include monitoring income to avoid inequality of work.

Retention is vital to a diverse Bar’s future, and embedding these measures is essential to reach this goal. Removing the barriers to long-term success will improve the trajectory of disabled barristers.


Retaining disabled barristers is only the second step. Specific and measurable targets for the career development of disabled barristers are necessary to improve their progression into senior roles, silk, and the judiciary. The information collected will enable organisations to pinpoint what is working and structure programmes to achieve career-oriented results for disabled barristers. The success of senior members of the profession radiates down to the junior end. The Legally Disabled? reports indicate that diverse leadership creates a better working environment. Ensuring a solid trajectory is also essential to public trust. The more the Bar and the judiciary reflect the population, the better the community will be represented. Having barristers and judges who can relate is crucial to serving the public well.

Creating a masterpiece

I trust our profession will continue striving for equality, diversity and inclusion; I hope these measures will assist in reaching our goal. These measures will help to paint a brighter picture of the Bar. Attracting disabled talent increases the diversity of thinking and life experience at the Bar. Retaining disabled talent will ensure long-term diversity at different levels of the profession, and improving their trajectory will help attract future generations and support existing disabled talent. Most importantly, the Bar and judiciary will better serve the public. Therefore, I have confidence in the A.R.T. approach to creating a masterpiece. 

References and further information

Legally disabled? Research Reports, Cardiff University: legallydisabled.com

‘5 advantages of diversity in the workplace’, Indeed survey

Disability-focused Bar organisations include the Association of Disabled LawyersAllBar and Bringing Dis(ability) to the Bar.

The Bar Standards Board’s Disability Taskforce was launched in December 2022. It commissioned a short film, Perspectives, produced by Taskforce member Mary Griffiths Clarke, which can be viewed on the Taskforce webpage under 'Disability Taskforce Launch event videos'.

The Bar Council’s Disability Panel provides support to barristers and pupils with disabilities and reports into its Equality Diversity and Social Mobility Committee. The Bar Council has published a guide providing information for Bar students with respect to financial support, reasonable adjustments and organisations that can provide further assistance.