News

‘X-Factorish bollocks’: Bar Council slammed for endorsing junior barrister’s ‘Never give up!’ blog

By on

UCL legal academic and top QC lead criticism of regulator for sharing touching story

lead

A host of big names have torn into the Bar Council for its endorsement of a blog written by a junior barrister about obtaining pupillage which they think doesn’t paint a full picture about the difficulty of gaining entry to the bar.

UCL legal academic Richard Moorhead is leading the chorus of outrage against the post — written by Becket Chambers’ John Nee — and the Bar Council’s subsequent description of it as “very important”.

Nee’s post, which was published on Thursday on LinkedIn, movingly charts the difficulties he faced during childhood as a severe asthmatic and in young adulthood as the victim of a serious car crash. The former professional rugby player uses these experiences — which saw him narrowly avoid having his leg amputated — as an example of the sort of determination it takes to succeed at the bar.

However, Moorhead disagrees with Nee’s analysis, suggesting that the secret to becoming a barrister is attributable to other factors such as “good qualifications, contacts, luck and being the right sort”.

A host of influential legal tweeters agreed with Moorhead, although there was some dissent, with 5RB media barrister Greg Callus arguing that “Anyone can make the contacts nowadays” and “there is no one ‘right sort’ anymore”.

As the debate raged, solicitor-advocate Stefan Cross QC then upped the ante, as he retweeted Moorhead’s tweet and thundered: “And if you want to be at a top 50 set you need an Oxbridge degree (as 80% do).”

This sparked all manner of argument, as some, including Moorhead, backed Cross; while others, such as bar hotshot Dinah Rose QC, claimed that getting a top pupillage was about “being outstanding” rather than having an Oxbridge degree.

It’s worth noting that none of the criteria mentioned in Cross’ tweet is relevant to Nee, who is neither at a top 50 set — Becket Chambers has not a single QC on its roster — nor a graduate of Oxford of Cambridge. Indeed, the Kent University-educated barrister — who qualified as a solicitor-advocate after being called to the bar in 2008 and then two years ago did his pupillage — seemed rather bemused by the furore, writing in the comments section to his original post:

Good grief — This is all over the internet now since the Bar Council recommended it! If it gives one person a boost, I’ll be happy.

For the record, 79% of recently qualified tenants at the top 50 chambers are Oxbridge educated. However, overall at the bar of England & Wales just under 30% of barristers went to Oxford or Cambridge.