Top human rights chambers launches paid mini-pupillage with ‘good enough for the bar’ test for disadvantaged students

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By Thomas Connelly on

Exclusive: One Crown Office Row’s new scheme seeks to widens pupillage interview pool


One Crown Office Row (1COR) has revealed that it will launch a new assessed mini-pupillage scheme for disadvantaged students in an attempt to create a more diverse and inclusive bar.

The scheme — that will launch in June 2016 — will see up to five students from disadvantaged backgrounds spend a week in chambers and get paid £300 each.

During their time with the Temple-based set, students will take part in a written assessment. Those who perform well will be guaranteed an interview for pupillage in 2017 and the chance to land the £50,000 award that comes with it.

Students who wish to apply must have attended a state school and be either currently completing, or have completed, their university studies. In addition to this, the programme also requires one of the following criteria to be met:

Either both the students’ parents did not attended university; they themselves received free school meals; their family received income support; they have been in care or they have acted as a carer for someone else.

1COR revealed to Legal Cheek that a bursary of £150 would be given to those who gain a place on the scheme, with a further £150 available for travel and accommodation. The chambers wishes to encourage applications from across the UK and will consider additional payments for those whose travel costs exceed the allowance.

With the Legal Cheek Chambers Most List revealing that four of 1COR’s last five tenants attended Oxford or Cambridge — which is pretty typical for a leading chambers — the civil and public law specialists will no doubt be hoping the new scheme goes some way to change the make-up of the set.

Speaking to Legal Cheek, 1COR barrister Sarabjit Singh explained the thinking behind the new scheme, commenting:

1COR decided to launch the scheme because we wanted to play our part in helping the bar to become as diverse and inclusive as possible by attracting able university students and post-graduates from less advantaged backgrounds. We want to encourage people from such backgrounds to spend a week with us so they can get a taste of what a career at the bar entails. We will assess them and if they are good enough we will guarantee them an interview for pupillage (which carries an award of £50,000), which is an additional incentive for them to come to us.

Keen for students not to be put off by what they believe a typical barrister should look and sound like, he continued:

Even if they are ultimately not interviewed for pupillage with us, we want them to see that if they are good enough and committed enough then the bar is something they should seriously think about and they should not be put off by stereotypes about barristers.

Across the legal profession socio-economic diversity data is generally sketchy, but research has found that as many as 40% of young lawyers at top firms and chambers have been privately-educated. At the leading public and commercial chambers this figure is often even higher. The Bar Standards Board’s latest chambers diversity survey is due to commence this winter.