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Privately-educated continue to dominate the bar

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Barristers remain reluctant to reveal schooling background, BSB report suggests

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The bar is still largely dominated by barristers who went to fee-paying schools, new stats show.

As part of the Bar Standard Board’s (BSB) latest diversity report, barristers were asked what type of school they attended. Of those who responded, around one-third (33%) said they attended a fee-paying school.

However, it would appear there remains a reluctance among barristers to divulge their schooling background. Over half (53%) of the 17,015 respondents swerved the question, while 394 — who did answer — said they’d ‘prefer not to say’. Last year, 63% of the barristers declined to answer the same question.

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Operating on the assumption that those who didn’t respond attended a state school, the BSB estimates that 15.5% of practising barristers attended private schools. That’s more than double that of the United Kingdom as a whole (7%).

BSB director of strategy and policy Ewen MacLeod said:

“The more accessible the bar is, the better it is able to represent the society it serves. Equality and diversity are priorities for us as a regulator and the data shows that there was a steady improvement in gender and ethnic diversity at the bar during 2018. But, we are aware that more needs to be done. We urge all barristers to complete the diversity data questions when renewing their practising certificates for the year ahead. This will enable us to act on accurate evidence to improve diversity.”

Elsewhere, the percentage of practising barristers who identify as black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) currently sits at 13%, up ever so slightly on last year’s 12.7%, while the number of women at the bar remains relatively unchanged at 37%. The percentage of female QCs rose from 14.8% to 15.8%.

The gender and ethnic diversity of pupil barristers is roughly in line with the population of England and Wales, with 50.4% of pupils being female and 16.3% BAME.

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