Fact check: Oxbridge-obsessed chambers claims to be a ‘varied and diverse place’

By on

20 Essex Street Chambers gets carried away on Twitter


Commercial specialists 20 Essex Street recently launched the Twitter account 20 Essex St Pupils, the purpose of which is to offer aspiring barristers invaluable careers advice directly from their pupils.

Under the strapline of “freshly squeezed tips,” the account proudly tweeted yesterday what appeared to be a direct quote from one of its current pupils.


The chambers — that offers four pupillages each year, with a financial award of £60,000 — encourages applicants to apply because they are a “diverse” and “varied” bunch of barristers.

We at Legal Cheek thought we’d see just how diverse their most recent cohort of tenants are.


Perhaps it’s “diverse” in the sense that some tenants didn’t obtain a double first?



Is this what passes for journalism these days? It is of course entirely possible that there is great diversity amongst those recent tenants who have attended Oxford/Cambridge. In displaying a list of names and the universities that those tenants graduated from, you entirely discount every strand of diversity beyond the the university attended.



True, there are a couple of people in there whose surnames are not 100% British



If by a couple you mean five or six



There is also the chance that they are not very diverse at all, and by the information presented it is much more likely that they are not a diverse group beyond where they studied.



I have serious concerns about the lack of diversity amongst the names let alone the universities. A prime example of why the bar is not a diverse place but rather home to the middle class white off-spring from affluent backgrounds. Also what a ridiculous Twitter account – awful.



So what? Let me guess – the author of this article applied to one or the other and failed to get in…?



Tresman according to LinkedIn is LSE (LLB) then Oxford (BCL)



I recently got a mini here and I’m non-Oxbridge and a total foreigner. There is some hope



Mini mean nothing your a token so don’t get your hopes up…



This is my new favourite article on LC.


Not Amused

It is lazy to assume people are not diverse just because they go to Oxbridge. Both Oxford and Cambridge spend millions in pounds and hundreds of man hours every year to improve their social demographic. Dotty and zaney professors (with odder hair than even Sumption) are sent out to trek to the corners of the UK to meet and encourage kids – your one article risks undermining all that.

The same amount of effort to encourage kids is sadly not put in by state schools to see their kids attend. Which is why numerous charities have stepped in to further assist the diversity of our top universities. Thousands of hours of collective effort go in by barristers, judges and solicitors who volunteer for such organisations.

Letting in a rich kid from a crap uni wouldn’t make 20 Essex more diverse. It’s incredibly offensive of you to just assume that all of their tenants were born privileged just because they attended Oxbridge. It is also wrong to assume that a kid born to privilege hasn’t got the same rights to succeed – if they are the best in their year.

The country needs to focus on improving achievement and attainment levels among bright but poor born kids: but nothing is gained by being snide and seeking to denigrate success. 20 Essex is a fantastic chambers and it upsets me that the laziness of this article might sow doubt in the mind of a single poor born kid about applying – do not let it. Have no doubt. The Bar is not going to discriminate against you on any grounds other than how able you are. We simply are not what this article lazily implies we are.

It’s right that 20 Essex care about diversity. I’m proud of them and nothing stated in this article has changed that. If you are worried about applying – don’t be. The Bar is all about merit.



I’m sorry but “Not Amused” that is preposterous! The Bar does and will continue to discriminate – the fact is the “merit” of candidates reaches a point where it is not possible to distinguish between them. It is at that point that the discrimination will occur. I’m certain that this particular set must have been in such a situation itself where it was faced with two candidates who on the face of it are equal in merit – the only difference being that in interview one represented a more familiar and “compatible” nature i.e. middle class and white than the other.

The problem isn’t necessarily about the respective alma mater its about this idea of who is suited to a career at the Bar – an analysis which occurs once the formality of “merit” has been dealt with.



It’s more lazy to assume that Oxbridge candidates are diverse because of all those outreach programmes.

You only have to look at the fact it is two thirds of those listed are male to see there is a lack of diversity. Add in the high probability that those names come from white-European heritage, and that it could only be worse if there was one called Henrietta and another call Tarquin, and it is obvious there is an issue here.



Does anyone know a person called Tarquin? Its getting really annoying how whenever there is a conversation on privilege this name gets trotted out. Its so damn cheesy. Surely posh people have names like James, William or Christopher.



Utter tosh not amused it’s is not diverse whatsoever and you know it FACT…



@Not Amused 4:07pm
Indeed the Bar shall not discriminate but qualify you on the basis of your potential receipts or realistic prospects of bringing in cases! Seen many a barrister competing for briefs within their own chambers!


Grumpy solicitor

reply to not amused:


thanks, you really cheered me up.



So we now know through this Chambers dismal Twitter account that unless you went to Oxbridge there is absolutely no point in applying for pupillage.

This Chambers is clearly an elitist bastion of privilege and should frankly be hauled in front of the BSB for its shameful selection procedures.

Diversity? What a joke…!



Nauseating stuff from the King of the Nonsense.

This Chambers should be absolutely ashamed that it’s diversity policy means that it it recruits virtually exclusively from Oxbridge.

It’s website is an absolute joke and Frankly the whole sorry bunch of self satisfied preeners should be disbarred for claiming such utter bollix as they’re diverse…



Great article. Thanks for the useful information



Read this article about 3-4 times and its just sunk in. How disgraceful and shocking – false impression being created through the medium of social media! Beware!


Graham King

Oxford itself hosts a diverse community of students and always did. One tires of the lazy assumption that behind an Oxford degree lies parental wealth and a privileged public school education, gap years full of mini-pupillages and internships, or “stages” at various European institutions supposed to have some connection with the law. It is far from always so.



The issue is not with Oxford (or Cambridge). It’s the fact the Bar can’t seem to get its head around the fact that many better candidates will be at other universities and that they haven’t had the privilege of going to a university that is heavily subsidised by funding from the rich professionals who are alumni (and their businesses) that allows the close tuition and small class sizes. But hey, if they recruit in their own image they get to protect the elite stereotype that protects their reputation and the univerisites.


Graham King

It may well be appropriate to describe attending Oxford or Cambridge University as a privilege. It is a privilege open, however, to any bright enough to earn it and thus considerably more impressive than the plethora of taught M.A.s from second rate institutions that pad out pupillage applications these days. They are open to anyone with parents who will pay.



It’s not open to everyone. There are plenty who cannot go to either university because their personal circumstances will not allow it. All the time the Bar makes the assumption that the highest achievers will go to Oxbridge, the lack of true diversity will continue.



Isn’t it the case that something like 40% of Oxbridge students went to fee-paying schools, while that only reflects 7% of the population. That doesn’t seem to be representing diversity to me.



Cambridge University has said that their target for state-school recruitment is the same percentage as state school leavers who obtain A*AA which is their entry requirement. It is in the region of 64-7% of all A*AA or higher grades are obtained within the state sector. Of course, if the proportion of state school students achieving these grades was to rise, Cambridge would raise its targets for state school entry. At the moment it is roughly in line at Cambridge, Oxford has some work to do on its stats. You will not limit private school pupils at Cambridge to 7% until you can raise achievement levels within the state sector. Instead of berating these institutions for taking the most able, despite extensive outreach efforts both pre and post application, perhaps we should be focussing our energies on working on improving outcomes for all students within our state schools?



Get rid of the bar the quicker the better fuse the profession and rid society once and for all of these chinless wonders who are full of self entitlement it’s all very boorish



Judging by the lack of punctuation, one can assume that you did not go to Oxbridge.



Get rid of Not Amused.

He’s an idiot.


The Ayatollah Kenobi

It’s a closed shop



They hire the best.

The best tend to have graduated from Oxford or Cambridge.



They don’t hire the best. They hire those they assume are the best which is heavily influenced by a name of an institution on a degree certificate.

There will be better candidates that are over looked, and all because their personal circumstances meant it wasn’t possible or suitable to attend one of two universities.



So Oxbridge grads not only have the best CVs, but also interview the best out of all other candidates? Such perfection…


The Ayatollah Kenobi

It is varied and diverse. Some people went to Oxford – and some people went to Cambridge. And one girl went to LSE.



*Two went to LSE.

Still, your point stands.



These types of articles infuriate me. I went to Cambridge for my undergraduate, yet I was the first in my family to go to (any) university and the only one in my (state) school year to go to Oxbridge. I also had grants from University, College, and a trust to financially aid me. Using any University label on its own as a signifier is pretty pointless – it obscures more than it reveals, and it perpetuates some myth about who goes (and should go) to Oxbridge.

I worked bloody hard to get in and then bloody hard once I was in: that deserves more recognition than being lumped together as some monolithic group and stereotype.



Aw diddums.



There is room at the Bar for anyone good enough, regardless of which university you attended.

If you can’t get in and you didn’t go to Oxbridge, then consider this: maybe you just weren’t good enough for either.


Boh Dear

I agree there are many people who went to Oxbridge who attended state schools and (perhaps more importantly) grammar schools who have purely worked hard and that is that.

I feel those at grammar and fee-paying schools have a much better chance of going Oxbridge. Often they have close links to Oxbridge and specialist Oxbridge interview teams which can sometimes be involved quite far in advance to prepare prospective candidates for an entry interview.

My (comprehensive) school cobbled some panel of this type together which consisted of two teachers; one of them had driven past Cambridge once and the other was a geography teacher, chosen, presumably, because he could accurately locate Cambridge on a map.

The assistance this ‘preparation’ provided was practically none existent. I gave, without a doubt, the worst interview of my life due to not having had the first clue what to expect. I was perhaps not helped along by the fact that my 18 year-old self was a complete moron.

The only way I could I have left the interview more certain that I would not receive an offer of a place to study would have been if, immediately after the interview, I had torched the college that interviewed me to the ground. Ashes and rubble cannot make an offer.


I was listening at law school

Think that’s from partridge v crittenden



I had zero help from my school on my application to Cambridge, and was the first from my school to attend. I just went to every open day, perused the website, watched all the videos on the Cambridge website, and turned up and hoped for the best. My interview was more like a conversation about my historical interests, and it was one of the most interesting conversations I had had in my life. I went back to school amazed at what teaching could be. The system worked for me.

I agree it isn’t perfect, but there is only so much the University itself can do. Articles like this don’t help.



Oh good, more absolute nonsense from Legal Cheek, appealing to the “It’s not fair!” masses without pupillage. Interesting that Alex Aldridge is happy to stand over the suggestion that the stamp of an Oxbridge degree is all it takes to walk into chambers – yet he didn’t get very far on his own pupillage quest with his illustrious Oxbridge stamp of elitism, despite several attempts…



Straw poll: do you think there’s space at the bar (any area) for someone with a 2:1 (69%) in philosophy from Durham, a very high commendation on the GDL, and a BPTC to come. Throw in a couple of scholarships and numerous minis, with great paralegal experience too. I read articles like this and it sets me worrying that I’m getting more into debt for a dream that won’t materialise.


Go for broke

If you want it enough, you’ll get there. Maybe consider an LLM and you could be a very good candidate


Not Amused




It’s not a question of space, it’s a question of statistics. You may well succeed, you may well fail. It is absolutely not the case that everyone who is determined makes it. Everyone who applies is determined and most don’t make it. You have to decide whether it’s a risk you’re willing to take. Personally I wouldn’t dream of doing the BPTC without pupillage lined up. Good luck!



I think you have a good chance.


Boh Dear

I recently succeeded with similar CV (except I did law) to yourself. It is possible. keep trying.



2:2 from an ex-policy and still have pupillage lined up for next October. Anything can happen



“2.2 from ex-policy”…can you private message me your details so i know never to instruct you for anything…ever



Can you message me yours for the same reason; not for your degree but just because you sound like a bit of a ridiculous dick?



Sure, but only if you can tell me the difference between ‘ex-poly’ and ‘ex-policy’, or was basic spelling not examined when you bagged that desmond.



If someone is good enough to get pupillage, regardless of their first university institution, then who are you to belittle that? Perhaps you feel that your opinion and insight (without seeing the aboves CV) is worth more than a panel of experienced practitioners? Or perhaps you made a completely unjustified assumption in order to gain 4 thumbs up on a snarky comment that realistically makes you look like a bit of a prat? Either way, if you make snap judgements without a full perspective then I’d be very interested to see how your arguments in court go down.




Viscount Dilhorne

Let’s face it.

The only things that you can take from this are:

1. This Chambers is home to some seriously Aspergeric weirdos.

2. Not Amused is clearly one of them.


Oxbridge doesn't mean homogenous

I know for a fact that one of their 5 most recent tenants went to an average comprehensive school.



And that justifies the label ‘diverse and varied’ how?



I really struggle to believe that absolutely NO candidate from Durham, UCL, Bristol, etc., let alone other universities, was superior or on the same level as the Oxbridge candidates. It suggests that Oxbridge candidates have the best CVs AND interview the best out of all candidates; yes, I know the tutorial system helps, but seriously?

Oxford and Cambridge are the best universities and it is inevitable that they will field quite a few successful barristers; however, there is an obsession by barristers’ chambers that goes well beyond this.



This article is a bit of a simplification. A lot of the named tenants went to a different Uni for undergraduate and then read for the BCL at Oxford, which is pretty much the gold standard graduate level qualification for law in this country and the common law world. So outstanding graduates from other Universities go there and may be called Oxbridge in the above list even if that is not the case. The commercial bar has many UCL, Bristol and Durham graduates, as well as some from King’s, Lancaster, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds. The fact that those kids get a first and then go to Oxford for the BCL doesn’t all of a sudden make these chambers less diverse. As an instructing solicitor, I want the standard at the commercial bar to stay high, and anyone who is so sensitive that they can’t work at a top commercial barristers chambers in London because they went to an ex-poly need to get over themselves.



Well I for one got a first from a redbrick in the top 5, was offered a place to do the BCL but couldn’t afford it. So, BCL or undergraduate Oxbridge is still indicating a preference for elitism over merit by this chambers.



Another rubbish article by LC.



I think a couole might have Tarquin as a middle name and possibly even a Tarquinius


Comments are closed.