Inner Temple's work experience initiative is infused with the spirit of the Occupy movement, writes OccupyTheInns
Well done to the Inner Temple! I know that this may seem like a strange sentence coming from somebody who advocated a campaign to occupy the Inns of Court just months ago, but I am really rather impressed by the Pegasus Access Scheme Inner launched this week to encourage greater social diversity at the Bar.
With 100 less privileged students expected to do the scheme in September, the atmosphere of the Inns of Court will certainly change for the rowdier that month. In its own way it will be rather similar to the occupation scene that I envisaged in November...
And even if these disadvantaged youngsters are forced to return from whence they came, as regrettably happened to the St Paul’s protesters, at least they will have the memories of an unforgettable week in the Inns of Court among some of the country’s best legal minds to tell their grandchildren about.
When I hear stories of these excellent diversity initiatives – of which PRIME, conducted by City solicitors' firms, is another – I often think of a fellow I used to know named John. I met John during my gap year while I worked in my local pub tending the bar saving money for my global travels. John was two years older than me and worked in the kitchen – his fourth year in the work force after leaving school at just 16. When it became busy at the bar John would often come to lend a hand, and I can honestly say I have never met someone who could do mental arithmetic in his head so quickly in all my life. John was also a thoroughly good person, taking time to ‘show me the ropes’ in a way that none of the other staff members did. We have sadly lost touch now, but I imagine he is working in the same pub, doing the same things as always.
What if John had the chance to do the Pegasus Access Scheme or PRIME, I found myself wondering this week as I crossed Waterloo Bridge on the way to the South Bank Centre (pictured); the Gherkin to my left, the Houses of Parliament to my right – buildings I suppose John has only seen on television. John often spoke coarsely in those days we worked together in the pub, too coarsely for the Bar, but the raw potential was there.
What if he had had a mentor to help refine him, encourage him, tell him there was a reason not to leave school at 16? Who knows, I might have found myself sharing a bottle of port with him at an Inns of Court dinner?
Sadly it’s too late for John now. However, there are more Johns out there – needles in a sometimes unpleasant haystack, but they are out there. I can only hope one of those scruffy youngsters wandering through the Temple in September has that special something to elevate him or her to a better life. The Occupy movement has achieved many things, but by putting pressure on the Inns of Court to create schemes such as this it has shown that its legacy can be truly lasting.
OccupyTheInns graduated from the BPTC last summer, and was called to the Bar in July 2011. There's more from OccupyTheInns here.