The Bar's recent initiatives to promote social mobility in the profession will assist former Minister Alan Milburn's review being launched this week alongside a Government White Paper

An in-depth inquiry into the background of entrants to the Bar by Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury in 2007 produced 57 recommendations amounting to a detailed road-map for the promotion of social mobility. The Bar Council is hard at work implementing those proposals with the whole-hearted cooperation of the Inns of Court, which all student barristers join. Lord Neuberger found that, whilst the Bar has an excellent record on race and gender balance and had already taken significant steps toward greater access to the profession, social background and hence familiarity with the professions remained a significant barrier to entry, along with lack of finance.

The Bar Council's implementation of Lord Neuberger's proposals concentrates on encouraging social mobility at every step in the journey towards a career at the Bar from school, through college and university, to pupillage in chambers and ultimately a seat in chambers. The Chairman of the Bar in 2007, Geoffrey Vos QC, actively promoted the Bar's initiatives, and became Chairman of the Trustees of the Social Mobility Foundation.


In November 2008, the four-part BBC2 series The Barristers followed the progress of five young entrants to the profession and revealed the very diverse social and racial backgrounds from which they came. Commenting on the Government's proposals, Desmond Browne QC, Chairman of the Bar Council, said:

"Like all my predecessors as Chairmen, I am determined to promote the Bar as a profession which is both diverse and inclusive. This is
nothing new for the Bar. Any profession which places obstacles in the way of talented aspirants joining its ranks would be undermining its own best interests as well as failing to serve the public. No one should ever be deterred from a career at the Bar by the thought that "it is just not for me". Misconceptions of that sort too easily become self-fulfilling prophecies. The BBC series helped to demolish the myths that exist about the social origins of young barristers these days. There are no quick fixes in this area; only a sustained and integrated approach to implementing Lord Neuberger's initiatives will bring about what the whole profession wants to achieve. The process of ensuring diversity at the Bar needs to start at school and continue all the way to appointment to the Bench. It also needs to ensure that young barristers have a proper supply of publicly funded work on which to cut their teeth. The Bar's highly successful annual mock-trial competition for state schools needs to operate in parallel with schemes for experience in barristers' chambers like that run by the Social Mobility Foundation. I know these schemes can work - the 2007 state school student in our chambers has recently won a place at the LSE to read law.

I am delighted that Lord Neuberger and Geoffrey Vos are on the government's panel. No two better qualified people could be found to achieve what we all wish to see. Mr Milburn can be sure that the Bar Council will pull out all the stops to support his objectives. Like him, we wish to unleash aspiration.”

 

Category: 
Tags: