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Fighting The ‘Facebook Mentality’: Why Barristers Should Be Proud Of Their Refusal To ‘Share’ Diversity Data

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I see barristers’ refusal to embrace diversity monitoring has been described as “embarrassing” and “pathetic”. What nonsense, writes pupil barrister-to-be OccupyTheInns. There is absolutely nothing embarrassing or pathetic about declining to disclose highly personal data about oneself. In fact, I regard the Bar’s stance on this matter as something of which to be proud.

Unlike so many areas of society, the Bar stands robustly in the face of faddish winds of change, like an English oak in a field of straw. Do most barristers foolishly “share” every scrap of knowledge they have, as new social norms tell us we must through the likes of Facebook? No. Thought in greater measure must occur, before acts a barrister…

Several years hence, I rather suspect that the individuals who are criticising the profession for refusing to disclose data will have cause to review their present opinions. Fashions come, but just as with the seasons in temperate climates (of which I am far, as I work internationally on a human rights project in the tropics before commencing pupillage in autumn 2013), they pass also.

“But how will we improve diversity at the Bar without data?” I hear the knee-jerk critics among you cry. The answer to that is that diversity is already formidable at the Bar. Just look around you for heaven’s sake: there is every shade of wonderfully different coloured person walking through the Inns of Court nowadays. Or for the lovers of statistics among you, refer to the data on race and gender already harvested.

This is where the line must be drawn, however. What business is it of anyone to ask my sexual orientation, my religion, the educational institution in which I passed my days as a child? More to the point, how on earth is this truly relevant to diversity?

It is true (if you believe past research) that more barristers attended independent schools than members of most professions, but diversity at those schools is often high, with students from all around the world coming to Britain to take advantage of a world-class educational system. More state-educated students could mean less opportunities for this racially diverse, not to mention highly cultured and refined, bunch.

You see, that is the problem with the cold analysis of data. It seems sensible at first, but can lead to unforeseen consequences, and drive deeper existing inequities. And who knows where all the information will end up? Quite possibly in the hands of Mark Zuckerberg, the way society is moving at the moment. Thank goodness, though, that for now the Inns of Court refuses to submit to the Facebook mentality.

OccupyTheInns was called to the Bar in July 2011. He will commence pupillage in autumn 2013. There’s more from OccupyTheInns here.