The Bar Council has launched a new website today called ‘No bar to the Bar’, which is designed to provide career information for all those who aspire to became practicing barristers. The website also seeks to actively promote social mobility within the profession, which is supported with online videos that provide students from both school and university a greater intuitive understanding of the workings of the Bar.
The website has been made with the co-operation of Gray’s Inn, Lincoln’s Inn, Inner Temple and Middle Temple and is driven by the proposals of Lord Neuberger, who produced 57 recommendations for the promotion of social mobility at the Bar.
Whilst I certainly advocate that this website clearly gives a good overview to the role and function of a barrister, one of sites primary goals would seek to nullify the inequitable position of inferring that the judiciary derive from a privileged background or have claimed their path to judicial success from a spawned vast array of in-house networking or personal contacts within the profession.
The question here turns upon whether entry to the Bar is indeed a prohibited profession. If this is the case, then the persuasive argument is that the bar to entry as a barrister commences at the very door of any perspective pupillage.
Acknowledging that obtaining pupillage becomes the defining turning point, then the reliance of safeguarding the social mobility and non discrimination of the pupil through the individual chambers pupillage selection criterion must be sought from the Lord Neuberger recommendations, since it is these recommendations which have fuelled the Bar Council to produce ‘No bar to the Bar’.
Appendix 13 of the ‘Entry to the Bar Working Party Final Report’ states: ‘..all of the work of the Bar Council, including in its relationships with other bodies……must have “due regard” to the equality objectives and in formulating its policies it must ensure that they are properly impact assessed and “equality proofed”’.
The pivotal point raised by Lord Neuberger, is that the pupillage recruitment process undertaken by individual chambers should conform to the applied interpretation, understanding and application of ‘equality proofed’ procedures and policies.
In addition to the findings of Lord Neuberger, one must be mindful of the ethics that a barrister undertakes when he or she is Called to the Bar. Members of the Bar are held to account by the professions ethical professional conduct, as prescribed by the Bar Standards Board and endorsed by the Bar Council.
For this, I draw upon s.305.1 of the Bar Standards Board Code of Conduct, which states the following: ‘A barrister must not in relation to any other person (including a client or another barrister or a pupil or an employee or a student member of an Inn of Court) discriminate directly or indirectly because of race, colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality’.
From a personal perspective, I do have reservations over the presentation of ‘No bar to the Bar’, as no considered address is given to those individuals who consider the Bar as a second career perhaps a bit later in life. When I undertook my professional training through the BVC, there were many older students that were highly skilled and came to the table with a multitude of different transferable skills. Sadly, in reality only one or two students have achieved pupillage and a new career at the Bar.
At present through The Pupillage Blog, I am conducting ongoing research into a wide range of equality and diversity issues that have come under scrutiny at the Bar, from social mobility to ageism and of course I will update The Pupillage Blog with the finding of this research in due course.
In conclusion, whilst I applaud any new mandate to remove discrimination from the profession, the jury is still out, as it remains to be seen how the Bar will effectively police chambers throughout the pupillage recruitment, interview and selection process.