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BME students far less likely to secure pupillage than white students, even if they have the same grades

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A level playing field? Not so, BSB report suggests

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New research has revealed that aspiring barristers from black and ethnic minority (BME) backgrounds are far less likely to secure pupillage when compared to their white peers — even when they have the same academic grades.

Statistics published by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) show that between 2011 and 2016, 59% of Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) grads who obtained an ‘Outstanding’ grade went on to secure pupillage, compared to 73.1% of white wannabe barristers with the same credentials. Meanwhile, 39.4% of white graduates who achieved a ‘Very Competent’ on the BPTC were handed pupillage, compared to just 21.9% of BME graduates.

Moreover, the eye-catching stats reveal the same divide at degree level.

While 59.4% of white BPTC grads with a first class degree under their belt bagged pupillage, just 41.6% of BME aspiring barristers went on to do the same. Eighteen percent of BME 2:1 degree-holders landed 12-month training positions, compared to 39.3% of white students with the same grades — that’s less than half.

Pupillage success rates — BPTC graduates 2011-2016

Table via the Bar Standards Board

The new research, ‘Exploring differential attainment at BPTC and Pupillage’, also examined the impact school type and gender has on pupillage prospects.

The figures show that 64.1% of BPTC grads who achieved a first class degree and attended a “fee-paying school” went on to secure pupillage, compared to 44.9% of “state school” students with the same academic achievements. The research, published this week, also suggests men are more likely to secure pupillage than women: 61.5% of male first class degree-holders received offers, compared to just 53% of women.

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“These findings raise concerns for the BSB as a regulator that certain groups of students may be less likely to… obtain pupillage than others with equivalent academic ability and attainment,” the report says. It continues:

“This suggests they might be facing additional barriers and difficulties at both the vocational and professional stages of training.”

However the regulator is quick to acknowledge that the figures do have their limitations. It goes on: “Grouping students by first degree class, for example, does not take account of factors such as the university at which they studied or the mode of study.”

Responding to the findings, Dr Vanessa Davies, the BSB’s director general, stressed it was important not to jump to any conclusions as to why there’s a difference in pupillage success rates. She says:

“We know that the bar is trying very hard to encourage equal opportunity and accessibility for anyone with the talent and desire to become a barrister… [But] more research is needed to understand why the differences in attainment in relation to ethnicity and socio-economic background seem to persist.”

The BSB’s findings come just weeks after it put forward a number of radical proposals that could, among other things, spell the end of pupillage as we know it. The consultation — which closes on 8 January — suggests that standardised 12-month pupillages could be scrapped, allowing chambers to develop their own more flexible training plans for rookie barristers.

Legal Cheek’s BPTC Most List 2017-18 shows that there are currently 14 providers charging as much as £18,520 for a place on the year-long course.

Read the report in full below:

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43 Comments

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(1)(1)

Bumblebee

What?! Why on earth was this comment deleted?

It completely conformed the unthinking SJW narrative that LC is so happy to promulgate.

I’m genuinely confused.

(26)(12)

Corbyn. Symphathiser

I can’t abide those Super Jehovah’s Witnesses.

(3)(4)

Anonymous

The Bar and Chambers seriously need to get a grip if they intend to be relevant in modern England. I am a barrister and I practised from elite London Chambers. The closet racism, snobbery and prejudice is, quite frankly, shocking.

(68)(42)

Anonymous

At my set the only ethnic minorities were educated at Oxbridge and Eton and Westminster … hardly representative.

(0)(0)

Bumblebee

“Grouping students by first degree class, for example, does not take account of factors such as the university at which they studied…”

(42)(3)

Anonymous

^^Precisely this. A first from the university of Plymouth is not the same as a 2:1 from Oxford….

(72)(8)

Anonymous

This is true – people disliking this need to wake up

(32)(3)

Anonymous

On average those in senior positions in law are more racist than the average applicant. Therefore this does not surprise me.

(33)(29)

Anonymous

Get the basics right LC! Bptc fees were over 19K in London last year.

(1)(5)

Anonymous

Perhaps the BPTC is just a load of crap and the marks given on it ought not to be used as a means of comparison? The BVC (as it was when I did the course) in 2004 certainly was rubbish. The universal opinion at the Bar when I obtained pupillage was that the mark obtained on the course was virtually meaningless. University and degree level were far more important, as were the tests one had to go through during the interview and assessment process. The idea that everyone who gets an “Outstanding” on the BPTC deserves pupillage seems potentially rather misguided. Nice idea though.

(26)(1)

Anonymous

I agree – BPTC grade is meaningless. If anything, thick kids tend to do better on the BPTC because they have nothing better to do with their time. Most BPTC students are working and doing a whole lot of other things alongside the BPTC. I worked as a researcher to barristers and academics and taught at a university alongside the BPTC – I came out with VC and it didn’t impact my pupillage applications one jot.

(8)(4)

Anonymous

So, faced with statistics showing that students with an Outstanding on the BPTC are on average twice as likely to secure pupillage than those with a Very Competent, your conclusion is that BPTC grades are irrelevant? Not sure that’s sustainable.

(9)(5)

Anonymous

Another blunt report.

Social class (perceived or otherwise) is the key to pupillage. Very few working class pupils. Lots of middle class and upwards from BME backgrounds and not.

That there are lots of BME students in the working class bracket is a different issue.

Outstandings on the BPTC. Whatever you think of the course, it’s relatively tough to get an O overall. Tends to be those who are very bright AND hardworking. Who also tend to get pupillage.

(8)(4)

Brown lawyer

You are out of date, Legal Cheek.

You used the acronym “BME”, not
“BAME”.

I am offended.

(14)(0)

BAME!

🎼 I wanna live for-ever!!!🎶

#⛄️

(7)(0)

Trumpenkrieg

If I was black I would be quite offended to be lumped in some stupid acronym by white people who make a living pretending to care about me.

(19)(0)

Anonymous

#⛄️

(1)(0)

Anonymous

I am also of the view that grades are but a small part of obtaining pupillage. You may have a first, and an outstanding, but if in a room of your peers you fail to get across any enthusiasm or drive, or you are incapable of communicating clearly and concisely, then you will not get a pupillage.

Grades was only ever a way of getting your foot in the door. Everyone has decent grades if they get to the interview stage, it is how you perform at that stage that dictates whether you will obtain a pupillage and this report does not attempt to take account of that factor.

(12)(0)

Anonymous

So your premise is that BAME candidates to not have those skills? Any explanation for that?

Or could it be that at the interview stages people gravitate to “PLU” ?

(4)(7)

Anonymous

Oh and grades were not “was”.

(2)(2)

Anonymous

So your premise is that BAME candidates to not have those skills?

“do not have those skills?” yes? if we being petty about grammar on a website…

As to the statement, the issue is that grades are just one part of it, as is performance in interview, as is extra-circular activities, as is experience gained through employment…etc.

To leap from these statistics to a conclusion would be an error.

That isn’t saying the conclusion is wrong, it is saying that these statistics are barely supportive of a conclusion; if the conclusion is that racial bias exists regardless of grades.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

The assumption that inequality of outcome is automatically evidence of an unfair playing field is perplexing. It far more often indicates inequality of input.

(6)(0)

Anonymous

I wonder what is meant by ‘same’ grades? Let’s be honest (and I have been the victim of this as well) a first from a non-Russell Group uni is not regarded as being on the same level as a first from Oxbridge or a Russell Group uni.

So, if these BME students have gone to non-Russell Group unis, then unfortunately they are less likely to get pupillages as compared to their Russell Group and Oxbridge counterparts. This is just a sad reality of trying to go the Bar.

Obviously, that won’t cover all circumstances. I’d imagine there will be circumstances where BME and non-BME students have both gone to the same uni and have the same grades, but unfortunately the non-BME is more like to be from a higher socio-economic background, thus enabling them to gain more experience because they won’t necessarily have to be concerned with financial constraints when gaining work experience (e.g a mini-pupillage in another city or an unpaid internship),

But at the same time, there are always innumerable factors that go into a pupillage decision. I have known friends with 2:1s beat out students with 1sts, so it just depends! So it’s not always grades that go into a decision, so to just purely focus on grades in studying diversity at the bar appears misguided.

(9)(1)

Question

Why are you assuming that the BME students have not gone to Oxford/Cambridge/ Russell group universities?

(7)(6)

Anonymous

Erm I dont think he was – I think the point being made is that university type is far more influential than ethnicity. Its hard to comment on the statistics when we dont know other contextual factors. Also BME students are undeniably under represented at Oxbridge et al and over represented at 1992 unis. If bias is then based on university type (which everyone knows it is) then it stands to reason BME students will disproportionately miss out . If you showed me a sample of 50 BME and white Oxbridge students id be willing to bet the trend doesnt carry through…

(10)(4)

Anonymous

Or she!

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Or ze!

(3)(0)

Julius Fendelsquizer

Or it?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Given the diversity quotas, it’s actually comparatively easier for a BAME person to get into Oxbridge. But ehy, racial discrimination

(16)(6)

Benny Goodman

Anonymous 9:54, any evidence to support this hypothesis?

(4)(7)

Anonymous

White privilege doesn’t need evidence

(5)(6)

Anonymous

Hi Ben! Maybe you’ve heard of Google. TRIGGER WARNING: you may find data there, which may hurt your feelings.
eg if you go to the Oxford website, they explicitly say they want to promote diversity in the recruitment page. If you go further in the docs there, you that BAME are mentiioned expressly. As someone above said, maybe social class is more relevant than ethnicity. Go back to your safe space.
..Same for the anon blathering of white privilege

But I agree with you on this: no need to be advantaged at getting to Oxbridge, you can always rely on racially targeted recruitment at law firms later on.

(1)(4)

Anonymous

Poor chap. Even with privilege you didn’t get a place at Oxbridge or a TC/pupillage. Mainly because you, my friend, are a thicko.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Got TC at top firm in London. Notwithstanding the fact I’m white.
me -> 😀
you -> :-((

(0)(0)

Anonymous

…Irwin Mitchell is not a top London firm

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Let the white middle class, socially prejudiced barristers keep recruiting in their own images if they want to, in 15 years time they will be fossils from a different era. Anyone decent now goes to major law firms in any event. The training is much better, the working environment is healthier and more diverse and they are taking work away from Chambers at a rate of knots. Eventually, the bar will go back to being the bastion of the upper middle classes and those socially ambitious wannabes who are willing to fork out a ton of money for the supposed cache of calling oneself a barrister.

(7)(16)

Anonymous

That comment is so stupid that only a solicitor or a know-nothing student could have written it.

(12)(3)

Anonymous

Wrong on both counts …

(0)(0)

The new Tony Blair

There are plenty of middle class BME students benefitting from positive discrimination over BME and white students from “normal backgrounds”. The focus should be on social class, not on ethnicity.

(26)(3)

Anonymous

I have met many partners who have come from a lower social class, and very few black ones. To address one problem (social class), does not mean you can not address the other.

(1)(0)

The old John Major

Oh yes! I recall being at a drinks reception organsed by City Law School for those perceived to be from a non-traditional background – which included me! It was supposed to give us a leg up in finding pupillage. I recall asking various others what their plans were… the black woman whose dad was Chief Justice of a Caribbean country; the Indian guy whose dad was senior partner in a large provincial firm of solicitors… Oh yes, DIVERSITY….

(10)(3)

Anonymous

This is disgusting.

(2)(0)

Comments are closed.

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