The Bar’s efforts to secure a diverse profession for the longterm reflected in intimate portrait of life at the Bar

A major new documentary has been broadcast on BBC 2. The Barristers was an intimate portrait which details life at the Bar from aspiring barristers through to senior silks. The four-part documentary was the result of four years of collaboration between the Bar Council, the BBC and other participants in the legal system, and followed senior practitioners, as well as students, as they work their way through Bar School to a permanent position – a tenancy or employment.

The BBC was given unprecedented access to the courts, members of the profession, the Chairman of the Bar, Circuits, Inns and law schools. The documentary showed real life at the Bar, profiling barristers working in the public interest as part of the communities they serve. The work done by the publicly-funded Bar included family barristers helping couples and children in the wake of family breakdown, and criminal barristers defending and prosecuting those accused of crime. The Bar’s work on behalf of some of the most vulnerable members of our society was clearly set out.


The Bar Council’s efforts over many years to increase the diversity of the profession – including a major report by Lord Neuberger of
Abbotsbury, which sets out 57 recommendations for reform which are being implemented – were clearly shown. Efforts to attract and retain talented barristers, no matter what their background, are making an impact, with women making up over half of all those who successfully gain pupillage at the Bar.

The Bar’s work to encourage talented applicants, no matter what their background, to aspire to a career at the Bar was also highlighted by the series. The Bar was one of the first professions to implement a plan to encourage access to those from non-traditional backgrounds, whether women, ethnic minorities, or financially disadvantaged. The former Chairman of the Bar Council, Tim Dutton QC, said:

“It has been a pleasure to work with the BBC on this documentary. Historically, the Bar has been somewhat misunderstood and cast as a profession to which only the privileged can aspire to join. This documentary will sweep these stereotypes away. It will show the hours of work which barristers put in to help some of the most vulnerable people in our society. The publicly funded Bar in particular is facing significant constraints, but it continues to provide specialist advisory and advocacy services to protect those in need. The Bar Council has made – and is making - huge efforts to improve access to the profession. It is committed to implementing the recommendations set out by Lord Neuberger about widening access and is working with partners such as the Social Mobility Foundation and the Sutton Trust to ensure that, whatever their background, those with ability who hope to join the profession can do so.

The Bar is a unique profession. Its members uphold the rule of law day in day out, they work in the public interest and provide an essential public service. The Barristers shows the tireless work done by the Bar for declining reward in the public sector for those most in need of high quality representation.”

Category: