‘Rushing More Ethnic Minority Students Into Pupillage Could Cause Culture Clash’

OccupyTheInns cautions against a “knee-jerk” reaction to a study that found ethnic minority students are at a disadvantage in the pupillage application process.

As somebody who abhors discrimination in all its forms, I was extremely disappointed to read of the recent Bar Standards Board (BSB) study that suggests there is prejudice against students from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds in the pupillage application process. By all accounts great strides have been made at the Bar to rid it of the scourge of discrimination. Clearly there is more work to be done.

Before I proceed, I must say that I have never witnessed prejudice on racial grounds at the Bar. Indeed, my experience is that chambers are sometimes more disposed to the charms of a strong applicant with an exotic surname than a good old John Smith. However, I am not BME myself, and I am aware that racism works in subtle ways.

Consequently, the question turns to what we must do to fight discrimination. Complicated questions require complex answers. It is my submission that in this case we must refrain from the knee-jerk reaction of simply rushing more BME candidates into pupillage. This could cause a considerable culture clash for which I do not believe chambers would be ready.

As an alternative, more sensible, course, I urge chambers to gradually increase the number of BME pupils, while also increasing the number of culturally aware non-BME pupils with experience of living and travelling in other countries. By working together, these two groups could help bring about sustainable change.

Before university, I was fortunate enough to spend a gap year travelling, visiting both western countries and exciting emerging markets. During this time I learnt a great deal not only about myself, but different cultures. Most important of all, I realised that beneath our different skins and whatever national costumes we may wear, we are all human beings.

Sadly, despite their considerable intelligence, large numbers of barristers do not possess this insight. For far too many, their only experience of “abroad” is two weeks all expenses paid in the Seychelles each summer. No wonder certain barristers (who shall remain nameless here) have looked at me blankly when I tried to discuss the interests such as hip hop music and international fusion cuisine that I have developed partly as a result of spending time overseas.

However, we need to be persistent. Without wishing to blow my own trumpet, I believe that people like myself have a great deal to offer “old skool” barristers who may possess biases. I refer not to great gestures, but the everyday.

Be it through talking about the latest underground club night we attended, or even through offering encouragement to try something a little more adventurous on the lunch menu, young barristers with cultural awareness have much to offer in breaking down the prejudices that still sadly exist at the Bar. By recognising this chambers could kick out racism from the law for good.

OccupyTheInns graduated from the BPTC last summer, and was called to the Bar in July 2011. There’s more from OccupyTheInns here.

12 Responses to “‘Rushing More Ethnic Minority Students Into Pupillage Could Cause Culture Clash’”

  1. D_T_T

    This character MUST be a wind-up. The general idea of “culture clash” in reference to increased BME representation at the bar, I personally find offensive in all honesty. But really “hip hop music” and “international fusion cuisine”… I don’t believe this is a real person. Either way, DO stop publishing this tripe.

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  2. VanDerBar

    “…we must refrain from the knee-jerk reaction of simply rushing more BME candidates into pupillage…”

    Dude you do not even have pupillage yourself.Who is we?Shut up and sit down

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  3. :S

    I completely agree with the poster above who said that it must be a joke. We’d all half reached that conclusion anyway with this guy’s previous posts. BUT- please take it off your website. If a reader didn’t take it as a joke it would be ridiculously offensive and you only need one sadistic Daily Mail writer to pick it up and put it online with the headline “Barristers think gap years and eating curry helps with ethnic diversity” for it to do some serious damage.

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  4. Milly

    By all accounts great strides have been made at the Bar to rid it of the scourge of discrimination.

    Before I proceed, I must say that I have never witnessed prejudice on racial grounds at the Bar.

    By recognising this chambers could kick out racism from the law for good.

    1. Discrimination and racism are not the same thing.

    2. Those three points are not congruent.

    3. ‘hip hop music’, ‘international fusion cuisine’ and ‘underground club night[s]’ do not demonstrate cultural awareness. In fact, using them as examples of is more than suggestive of the opposite.

    4. If you wrote your pupillage applications as sloppily as this, you have your answer as to why you do not have pupillage. To assist your next time, I refer you to this post http://www.mikehillbarrister.com/blog/?cat=12 which sums up how able students are at encouraging those sifting through pupillage applications to file them under ’round’.

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  5. cjr1968

    Could OccupyTheInns please tell me how barristers get on “all expenses paid holidays in the Seychelles”? I’ve been missing out on mine for the last 20 years! Seriously, this Occupy type has previously posted that we all earn £1m+ and now this. With such an unrealistic view of the Bar it’s not surprising Occupy hasn’t got pupillage yet.

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  6. BME Applicant

    You really have no idea what you are talking about, do you?

    A BME pupil is unlikely to cause a ‘culture clash’ within chambers; most BME applicants will have been born and raised in the UK just as the barristers who will supervise them.

    I take great offence to your suggestion that an intolerable ‘culture clash’ would take place simply because a pupil has a darker shade of skin tone or chooses to practice a religion that the majority of members of chambers do not follow.

    In three years of seeking pupillage, I can think of only one prejudiced comment I have received from a barrister in the context of discussing a legal internship I had undertaken in an Asian country, completed with another BVC graduate who is not from a BME background.

    In this barrister’s opinion, he informed me that a pupillage committee would accord ‘more weight’ to the fact that an applicant of a non-BME background had spent time in that Asian country over a BME applicant who had completed the same internship. This is regardless of the fact that neither of us interns had ever visited the country before, had no prior knowledge of the local language or customs and had both undertaken the same amount of work whilst out there.

    This is but one small-minded opinion, and an opinion that I would hope would be outweighed by the input of other members of the selection committee in fairly assessing all of an applicant’s achievements.

    I don’t want to be picked based on BSB quotas; I want to be picked by a fair selection process that takes into account the hard work I have put in over the years though advocacy positions, internships and pro bono efforts to hone the skills I will need to do well in this profession. I don’t want to be picked to play the role of ‘Court Jester’ and explain ‘underground clubbing’ and ‘fusion cooking’ to other members of chambers; I want to be picked based on my ability to do the job better than other applicants.

    By all means, fill your time learning about ‘fusion cooking’ and ‘hip hop’ – I would rather spend mine working on the skills I will necessarily need to call upon in practice. It is on this basis that I believe applicants are assessed regardless of skin colour or ethical background.

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  7. Simon Myerson

    The Bar as an experiment where pupils are chosen on the back of some half-arsed experiment in social engineering designed by someone whose cultural experience is derived from travel in exciting and emerging markets? What a brilliant idea. Especially as our writer has the exact qualifications required to be the cultural interpreter for all those barristers who can’t understand or deal with the public they represent.

    The trouble with this creation as a wind up (not a bad idea in itself) is that this is truly offensive. Not only to the BEM candidates who can speak for themselves (and have done so, eloquently, above) but to every junior barrister. The suggestion that they are unable to speak for their generation’s approach and mores is rude. The proposition that this character can do it better is patronising and inaccurate. Consequently, if OTI is real, and he hasn’t sufficient self-awareness to shut up, Alex should shut him up. If he’s a fake then keep it funny.

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  8. Concerned

    Subject to the author not being false, I really hope he doesn’t get pupillage.

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  9. BPTC Student

    I fit this so-called ‘BME’ description. I regularly read your blog, after this article I will avoid it.

    Why would middle class BME pupils who are fourth generation Cambridge graduates, such as myself, create a culture clash? Are all BME people, by law, required to listen to hip-hop?

    Let me call my grandfather so that he can read this blog, and we can laugh at you together.

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  10. BPTC Student

    ‘As somebody who abhors discrimination in all its forms…’ is the middle class equivalent to the ‘I am not racist but…’ argument.

    Aversive racism is when well meaning people, particularly some white liberals, say they are not racist but still show a bias.

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  11. Civil Stu

    People whose behavior is characterized by aversive racism (aversive racists) sympathize with victims of past injustice, support the principle of racial equality, and regard themselves as nonprejudiced, but at the same time they possess negative feelings and beliefs about blacks or other groups.

    Read more: Aversive Racism – SUBTLE BIAS, COMBATING – Racists, Attitudes, Blacks, and Negative – JRank Articles http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/5976/Aversive-Racism.html#ixzz1ubJrUMcz

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  12. A_Lawyer

    Surely this is the final nail in the coffin proving that OTI is just a wind up? No-one in their right mind would say that when travelling on their gap year they visited “exciting emerging markets”.

    It goes without saying, of course, that if OTI is real he is a prize muppet and it’s no shock that he remains without a pupillage.

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