Ex-Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger is touring non-Russell Group universities and state schools with a future CMS trainee

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Exclusive: Pair seek to do good with their unlikely friendship

Lord Neuberger and Ammar Khan

Lord Neuberger is touring some of the country’s state schools and non-Russell Group universities with a University of Exeter law graduate he met while he was still the president of the Supreme Court.

Newly-retired Neuberger is staying true to his own recommendations, first revealed to the public at a Legal Cheek event in 2015. Then, he called on his fellow judges to help promote diversity by visiting non-Russell Group universities to encourage students to apply for training contracts and pupillages. Neuberger, now an arbitrator at One Essex Court, will be doing just that on 29 and 30 January, visiting both the University of Bradford and Aston University, plus two nearby comprehensive schools.

Neuberger told Legal Cheek:

“I have always thought that it was important for judges and senior lawyers to visit schools and universities to explain what they do and why they do it. It helps pupils and students understand how our constitution works and why the rule of law is so important. It also gives them information about a career in the law. And it makes the law a little less remote. I could only manage a few such visits when I was a judge. Although I have a number of commitments, I am now no longer quite as busy as I was, and can therefore make rather more such visits.”

While the aim of the whistle-stop tour is to inspire, the schools and universities will be approached with different strategies. The schoolchildren, who are from Year 10 to sixth form, will hear Neuberger discuss more light-hearted themes like why judges wear funny clothes to court and what it is like meeting the Queen. Over at Bradford and Aston, the undergraduates can expect more high-level discussions on the legal profession and being a lawyer.

But Neuberger won’t be heading out alone. He’ll be joined on his two-day trip by Ammar Khan, an Exeter law graduate and future CMS trainee solicitor who Neuberger has remained in contact with after the pair met during a work experience placement. Khan even revealed to Legal Cheek he attended the 70-year-old’s retirement party and has been to his house.

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Khan, himself state school-educated, is passionate about diversity and widening participation. He hopes the visits will dispel the myth that lawyers are unapproachable, something he admits he believed to be the case when he was younger. He tells Legal Cheek:

“I feel the north of England — or rather everywhere outside of London — is neglected in the upper echelons of the legal profession. Lord Neuberger’s visits to these areas will help inspire students and educate them about the legal profession and the judiciary.”

Though Khan concedes Neuberger will make no personal gain from the visits and is only taking part “because he cares”, Legal Cheek hopes the trip will prove enjoyable for retired Neuberger and Khan, who is waiting to start his City training contract later in the year. And, we’ve been informed Khan has a 16-25 Railcard and Neuberger a Senior Railcard, so at least they’ll save on train fares.

This social mobility news comes in the same week ITV launched a new diversity scheme, its aim being to broaden access to the legal and accountancy professions. The Social Mobility Business Partnership is supported by firms including Clifford Chance and Slaughter and May, and counts money expert Martin Lewis as one of its patrons.

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State school tours, yes, all here for it.

But its all great and dandy touring non-Russell Group Universities telling them to go into a field that does’t look for them and applying to City firms and chambers that won’t even give them a second thought!

Instead go to firms, speak to Partners and HR about their recruitment strategies and tell THEM to rethink their process and more open!

This is just for show as it won’t do much to help those at an already disadvantage.



I don’t believe that there are any chambers that restrict offers of pupillage to those who attended RG universities.



Consider possibly that Neuberger’s visits are about inspiring those at non-russell group universities to do their very best with what they’ve got. Grad rec are already trying to change the way they select applicants – by looking less at A level grades etc.

It is now about washing away the stigma attached to those firms and chambers through inspiring these students and reminding them that, regardless of their university, they are not as shackled as they once were.



Not true that no sets/chambers look at non-RG. I went to a state comp and then a former poly and got pupillage (first time applying) at chambers rated tier 1 in basically everything civil.

To say that you’ll let applicants ‘get away with’ state school but not a non-RG UG degree is to inherently misunderstand state education. We had no ‘careers support’ of any merit. No-one ever encouraged me to apply for Oxbridge, no-one told me that if I wanted an academic or professional career, I should only bother with Russell Group unis. I sent off for prospectuses and decided on my uni based on the look of the course content. If you get a strong UG degree ‘even’ from a poly and exhibit other skills and attitudes relevant to life at the bar, chambers should not be so short sighted to base their choice on your position when you were 16 years old.

Agree with this though: “Instead go to firms, speak to Partners and HR about their recruitment strategies and tell THEM to rethink their process and more open!”



Well done on the pupillage. love hearing stories that put the snide commentors in their place



Love this story! Well done!



With respect, you are hardly the norm in a profession which quite rightly expects those entering it to be well educated and clever. You were very lucky even to get into a Chambers doing knock-about common law work, although admittedly the work is the least intellectually demanding at the Bar; but you would not have stood a chance at a Commercial or Chancery Set.



I’m a current pupil at a commercial/chancery set with a law degree from a non-RG university.



Did you go to a former Poly?



My response was to the assertion that “chambers that won’t even give [non-RG grads] a second thought”. That’s clearly untrue in my experience.

Yes, uncommon, but not an insurmountable hurdle.

In response to your comments about ‘knockabout’ common law chambers being the only ones who might consider non-RG graduates, that’s also nonsense. I had, amongst others, 1st and 2nd round interviews/assessed minis at Brick and Blackstone, and I know of a few other applicants in similar positions. Again, not common, but it happens.


Well done

Amazing story. However, although I know you would not be able to reveal the chambers you currently work for, could you at least tell us which year you were called? Simply asking because last time I checked, all new pupils at top 20 civil chambers were from Oxbridge. Thanks!



That can’t be right – not even last 20 *tenants* from top civil sets are Oxbridge – this website’s ‘most’ list shows that. Lots of the pupils/pupils-to-be I’ve met recently at Inns are Australian, plus some with Scots degrees/Trinity Dublin etc. Some have BCL but not all, lots of non-Oxbridge undergraduates tho.



You can get away with a poor academic record if you are happy to join a common law/criminal/family Chambers in London or the provinces, where the work is not demanding and the intellectual calibre of your instructing solicitors is similarly low. But to be a tenant at a leading Chancery or Commercial Set, you need to have an undergraduate degree from Oxbridge or, at a push, have done your undergraduate stint at London, Bristol or Durham, followed by a Cambridge LLM or Oxford BCL. This is because the work is very complex, and whilst “personality” might get you through a criminal trial or impress a High Street solicitor, it will not provide answers to a knotty question relating to a time charter party or insolvency, or cut ice with the people instructing you at City firms, many of whom are Oxbridge and are hardly going to ask for the answer to a difficult question from their educational and intellectual inferiors.



Or neither approach you to become a husband or a wife. Eugenics if you want to breed the best.


Andy E

Chambers Guide Legal recommendations are often funny to read:

“A cerebral thinker who cuts through complex facts with ease. He is technically excellent, a pleasure to deal with, very responsive and popular with clients.”

“He is an incredible brain, at the top of his game.”

“He is a genius, a brain with a suit on”

Blah Blah Blah

Having seen some of these guys and gals in action, they are mortal and are known to bleed. They often sound like parrots, carefully treading where an impress hasn’t exploded a mine.



I disagree. Sets like Regent Chambers in Stoke marked candidates down for not having a 1st.



If you want to have less of a rocky road to the top in the legal profession, make sure you have an Oxbridge degree. The loaded die does exist; the odds will not be in your favour. The trajectories of some of the biggest names in this profession have been stoked into ecstasy by virtue of an affiliation with the big two. Oxbridge is a certainly a behemoth as a seat of learning but this is true precisely because the alternatives do not operate at the same level of rigour. They are sadly the only credible Gods available to the British public.
This however cannot mean that a vast tranche of candidates walk with a scarlet letter emblazoned deep into their bone. There is only so much room at oxbridge after all. A QC once told me that through the public school, oxbridge route, one is exorcised of misgivings that have traditionally dogged the lower classes. He went on to say that all notable revolutionaries were from well educated middle classes. Certain behaviours or traditions he said are the spoken word of rationality and form a standard.
The advent of AI makes one realise that perhaps the subtle distinction, the Dedekind cut between elite and common is a boundary as well defined as ether. It doesn’t actually exist but only to serve as a font for a bad idea.
Richard Dawkins once said that combinations of the human genome far outnumber sand grains in the Sahara; within these permutations lie scientists greater than Newton or poets greater than Keats. Nature is innately paradoxical and any conveyor is certainly nowhere uniform. Just like G.K. Chesterton said of Christianity, “It has been found difficult; and left untried”. Outsiders will not change a thing, that’s why Lord Neuberger stands on the left of the picture.



A self-serving publicitiy stunt, for both.


Frustrated Writer

Maureen McAlister was in her early seventies but looked younger. She had lived in Kilroch all of her life, and attributed her relatively youthful looks to the clean air and long country walks she enjoyed there. In fact, the longest time she had spent away from the village was a week in the late 1980s she had spent in Edinburgh, visiting her son at University. She had hated every minute, and vowed never to leave for so long again. So now, her weekly trips to Glasgow to buy a few small items that could not be purchased at the local shop were her only time outside the small idyllic village she called home. That arrangement was fine with her.

It was unusual for an outsider to be on the tired old bus from Glasgow to Kilroch. The bus ran only twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, leaving the village at 8:00am sharp, and returning from Glasgow bus station at 4:00pm. It was even more unusual for an outsider to be there who looked so out of place. As the young woman boarded, looking tired and confused, Maureen wondered what earthly reason this well dressed girl would have in the remote Scottish countryside. The stranger was wearing a heavy tweed coat and dragging a fancy wheeled suitcase. Her coat collar was pulled up, as if its wearer was shielding herself from the elements. The leather boots she wore looked new from the box, and had certainly never seen any dirt, nor did they appear designed to deal with that challenge. The logo on the side of the suitcase was familiar to Maureen, but as she purchased all of her clothes from the local tailor, she was not aware of the latest offerings by Louis Vuitton, and could not place where she had seen it.

The young woman paused as she ascended the stairs to the bus, her head swivelling to and fro in confusion. The driver, a fellow Killrochian named Davey Cameron, greeted her with a kindly smile lighting up his ruddy complexion, developed from sampling too much of the local brew at the pub his father owned in the village, where he worked when not driving the bus. “How can I help you love, you look lost?”

The woman looked back at him, slightly befuddled. “Um, yes, I’m going to Kilroch, is this the right bus?”

Davey nodded. “Aye, dear, you’re in the right place” he said, warmly. “Would you like a return or single?”

The woman pulled out a leather pouch from her inner pocket. The pouch had a large double C logo on the front of its patent leather. “Return please” she mumbled. “How much?”

“That’ll be £2.80 love” Davey said.

Paying Davey, the woman took a seat at the front, but only after suspiciously wiping the seat with a wet wipe she produced from her pocket. This was a strange one indeed, Maureen thought.

The sun had long since sunk behind the hills as the bus made its final stop outside St Hilda’s church in Kilroch. As Davey switched the engine off and began gathering the change he had collected, Maureen noticed the young woman still seated at the front of the bus. The stranger hesitated, seemingly not sure if she should get off. Maureen took pity on her. Although the young woman had spent the hour long journey staring at her phone, swearing loudly at the lack of signal, she was someone’s daughter.

“Are you OK lovey?” Maureen said as she passed through the bus, pausing by the seat the woman occupied. “You’re at the last stop”.

The woman looked up on hearing Maureen’s soft tones. She was in her mid-twenties, Maureen guessed, and had a shock of fair hair messily tied back with a band.

“Yeah, I thought so” she responded in a home counties accent. The woman groped into her purse, pulling out a slip of A4 paper, with a printout of an address. Maureen noted with interest the small picture in the wallet, of the young woman with a elderly lady. The lady had grey hair in a well maintained bob cut, and was wearing round glasses and a kindly expression, although she looked decidedly uncomfortable in the picture, as if she wanted to get away. “I don’t suppose you know where this is?” She handed the paper to Maureen.

Maureen looked at the address and back at the stranger. “Oh dear, I’m so sorry. That hotel closed before that bonnie young prince got married.”

The woman’s head sunk. She swore again under her breath, but still loudly enough for Maureen to hear. It had been years since she had heard that particular word. The last time was when her Trevor was still alive. “That’ll teach me for relying on Yelp”. Maureen was confused but tried not to show it. She didn’t know who Yelp was, in part because the village had no internet coverage, save for an elderly computer in the library with its dial up connection. The woman looked back at Maureen. “Don’t suppose there’s another place I can stay here? An Airbnb? Anywhere I can check out on Tripadvisor?”

Maureen’s confusion deepened. “Air b’n’b? We don’t have anything like that dear. Ally O’Donnell used to have a b’n’b, but I’m not sure if it was an air one. Anyway that closed when he died back in 1998”. She noticed the woman’s face change to panic. She recalled the picture in the wallet. This girl obviously cared about her grannie, and Maureen pictured her feeling if her grandchildren were lost and alone. “Look, come with me, I’ve a spare bed you can have. It was my son’s. My Stephen rarely comes to see his old mum these days, since he started seeing that new girlfriend of his, so it’ll be nice to put it to some use. But on one condition”.

The woman noticeably relaxed. “What’s that?”

Maureen nodded at the picture in the still open wallet. “You take good care of your grannie, dear. Us old folk need it”.

The woman blushed and hastily closed her wallet, as if embarrassed. “Actually, she’s, erm…” She paused, surveying Maureen’s face. “Of course. Yes, she’s my gran. Thanks so much”. She began gathering her bag. “Sorry, I don’t even know your name”.

Maureen smiled. “I’m Maureen dear. What can I call you?”

The woman rose from her seat, and held out a hand, awkwardly. “I’m Katie. Katie King. But you can call me Katie”.



Sir, love yourself and stop this!


Benny Morris




Would it not have been more appropriate to tour with a non-Russell group graduate?



100% agree, but it’s better than nothing.

I’ve been told time and time again by lawyers (mostly at smaller but still reputable firms) that once you qualify your choice of uni no longer matters.

With that in mind, I wish legal cheek would have just introduced the individual by their name and “a future CMS trainee”. I am really tired about hearing who graduated from where from these compulsive knobs. If anything they’re just implicitly reinforcing the antiquated stereotypes by drawing everyone’s attention to it and reminding them of the RG vs non-RG disparity in the legal profession.


CMS Associate

Good lad. I look forward to giving him some late night bundling to do.


US Firm Associate

How’s the boiler room going?

Mmm, £67k NQ, delicious.


CMS Associate

Got any plans this weekend? Thought not. I’ll take my pay per hour over yours, ta.


US Firm Associate

Ask your mum what I will be doing on the weekend.


CMS Associate

Asked her, she said “desperately trying to reach 2000 billable hours to avoid being managed out”. Weird she knew that, really.



Would it be interesting to hear any questions and answers put about Sharia law and Sharia Courts ?



Its a bit late now- this won’t make a difference when the selection panels have set criteria that does not recognise non RG university. You can have a 1st but if you have mediocre A level results you are binned.



What about having A-levels which pass the criteria but you go to St Andrews or Bath (both non-RG)



Does Bath even do Law??? St Andrews is in Scotland- why would they teach English law??? I think what you are referring to is prestige , which the universities you have named fit into. If that’s the case it just goes to show there is snobbery. Not everyone can afford to move away or have commitments. Where the nearest university happens to be non RG you make the choice that best fits your circumstances especially as a mature student. I went to a RG university but had weak A-levels. Most firms don’t look at applications any further so forget any strong relevant experience. I have been written off by many firms because all they care about are A levels, which for me were 20 years ago. There is where you have the problem.



Lord Neuberger is a legend.

The man is keeping the country together.



Why focus on people who are either lazy or simply not bright enough to get into a proper university? Do we really need those in the profession?



What about having A-levels which pass the criteria but you go to St Andrews or Bath (both non-RG)



Absolutely. And compound that with the appalling education from a state school. Sign them up!



That’s a flippant comment as many choose their university based around their commitments such as children. There are many people who can pass exams and achieve straight A’s but lack common sense and are simply not intelligent. Just because you achieve the best grades does not automatically mean individuals are intelligent. Some of the best legal minds do not have A grades. I know a QC in London who went to a non RG university with weak A levels. It is a shame the profession values A levels rather than solid experience. I understand that is due to the sheer numbers entering the legal profession but if the legal profession wants to address diversity and underprivileged individuals then they need to understand rather than making it a tick box exercise. Tour the country all you want but the situation will still be the same.



You are clearly very chippy. And deluded. Exam results and university are the only true guides to intellect, as recognised by the entire world. The cleverest people go to Oxford or Cambridge. It is downhill from there.



The legal profession should not be addressing diversity. There is much more at stake here: the administration of justice. Whilst it is quite sweet that someone with a degree from Southampton or Warwick should want to be a barrister, such people lack the intellect required to do the job. The public deserve to be protected from such people.



A quick Google shows that Bradford, Birmingham and London are among a few places in Britain where ethnic minority pupils are in the majority. There is also talk by Trevor phillips, the chair of the body who collected or commissioned the data, in 2015, of some ethnic miorities spending 100 percent of their time in those places being effectively by themselves with no other reference points.

It is interesting that these two men in the legal cheek story choose schools and universities in Bradford and Birmingham and that one of the discussion points will be the role of the judges and meeting the Queen.

It is interesting because the two of them in combination are likely to be able to bring about purposeful conversations which will allow Lord Neuberger to report back on the state of the young nation to the civil service and other governmental bodies.
A discussion about judges and legal careers provides a good cover story for gathering important intelligence.

If you could buy shares in saira Khan , and Majid nawaz, now would be a good time. If you could read a crystal ball, it would be sensible to predict a promising future somewhere important in the culture for Amman Khan emerging through the mists.

It would be interesting also to see what level of civil service entourage is in tow to assist with the state of the nation mission.

The cover story would not require any civil servants at all. So if I am wrong about the entourage and if funding for Majid nawaz and saira Khan is cut in the future, not expanded, then more fool me !



Lovely couple.


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