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BPTC grads more likely to get pupillage if they’re white

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Ethnic minorities with same marks as white peers find it harder to get a place at chambers, figures show

Skin colour still makes a big difference to the career prospects of bar school graduates, the latest stats suggest.

White Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) graduates are much more likely to get pupillage than those from an ethnic minority with the same grades, according to the Bar Standards Board (BSB).

For example, white BPTC grads with a first in their undergraduate degree and an ‘Outstanding’ grade in the BPTC had pupillage in 84% of cases. The figure for ethnic minorities who had pulled off the same feat was just 72%.

The same pattern holds across all grade levels covered in the report. Candidates with a 2.2 in their degree but managing a ‘Very Competent’ in the BPTC were three times more likely to get pupillage if they were white.

A lot of BPTC graduates are from Asia, and may not necessarily want pupillage in the UK, but these numbers allow for that by only looking at British and European graduates. The figures cover those graduating between 2013 and 2017.

The 2019 Legal Cheek BPTC Most List

In general, black and minority ethnic students were also more likely to fail or drop out of the BPTC than their white counterparts.

The dizzying array of data published yesterday also includes information on the pupillage rate by BPTC provider. BPP Manchester and City Law School came out on top, with over half of their barrister training graduates nabbing a spot at chambers over the last few years.

Overall though, as Legal Cheek has reported previously, well under half of BPTC graduates will ever get pupillage. Of the BPTC grads churned out between 2013 and 2016, only 45% had become a pupil barrister by March 2019.

The figures show that limited pupillage opportunities, whopping course fees and a high dropout rate are no deterrent to would-be barristers. BPTC application numbers have held steady and enrolment leapt by 14% in 2017, from 1,423 students to 1,619.

90 Comments

Anonymous

The bar is a disgusting, pretentious and overblown place to work. No one in their right mind would choose to be a glorified opera singer over a trusted partner at a large firm.

(24)(54)

Anonymous

Aww hun, Gateway will still be there next year xx

(94)(16)

Anonymous

Bar v partner of a large firm is a tough one.

QC v partner of a large firm is a better comparison and I would much sooner be a QC.

Senior junior v senior associate – again, senior junior every day of the week. Cannot imagine anything worse than getting to the stage in my career where I realise I’m not one of the few likely to make partner and I’m instead staring down the barrel of being a senior associate for the rest of my career, having to bow down to sadistic partners and watching younger lawyers claw their way into the equity.

(29)(2)

Anonymous

If you’re a mediocre associate, you’ll stay one. If you’re a mediocre junior, you’ll go broke.

(53)(1)

Anonymous

If you’re an associate who will never make partner, or a mediocre junior, you’ll head offshore to join all the other failed barristers and solicitors.

(8)(4)

Offshore aspirations

What’s wrong with offshore? Better weather, no crime, and low/no tax: all in stark contrast to London!

Anonymous

Junior junior v NQ- bar definitely wins as well

(10)(1)

Junior Junior

Absolutely – once you’re through the horror of pupillage you have infinitely more freedom than an NQ.

(6)(1)

Anonymous

And three times the pay and twice the holidays.

Anonymous

Not really, if you’re a senior associate who’s not making partner at the firm you’re at you can just lateral over to a lesser firm for a partnership position if that’s what you really want.

(8)(0)

Anonymous

Has no one realized just how absurd the titles in the barrister profession are? Senior Junior? I thought British barristers were masters of the English language. Surely they must tire of being labeled with an oxymoron.

Why can’t it just be Junior Counsel (or just Counsel), Senior Counsel and Queen’s Counsel?

(4)(1)

Anonymous

Because we just do not care what you think.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

I mostly agree. The ‘characters’ in those circles are rather off-putting.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

I wish I’d become a solicitor instead of a barrister. I much prefer admin to law and advocacy. /sarcasm

(27)(4)

Anonymous

‘Advocacy’ lol? You mean wasting everyone’s time with empty speeches?
Negotiations with business leaders > convincing privileged old men who have their minds made up. Idiot.

(8)(18)

Anonymous

clearly never spent any actual time in court.

(6)(0)

Anonymous

“Negotiating with business leaders” lol. Loser.

(5)(0)

Annoying

True
Gateway will open again don’t let it get you down

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Releasing this article without mentioning the overwhelming number of students that cannot access the bar due to their parental income, let alone gain unpaid work experience in the centre of London, is massively irresponsible. It’s contributing to this view that if you’re white you instantly gain access to such positions and that it’s far easier for you. I’d like to question how many of these students come from parental households that did not qualify from a maintenance grant (when it existed).

You’re simply stating that being white gains you these positions. Is that true? Obviously not. There’s a myriad of factors that contribute to this and you mention nothing else aside from race.

(55)(6)

Anonymous

What do you expect of legalcheek?

(4)(2)

Anonymous

Effort? No wait… the opposite of that

(2)(0)

Anonymous

There are chambers in London with only one or two non- White members.

There is no other enclave in the city like it. And barristers want to pretend that, of course, they aren’t racist?

I feel rather embarrassed for them.

(40)(68)

Anonymous

Have some integrity and put your name and chambers to your views.

Let all your clients and colleagues know you think Black people are entirely responsible for their own ‘failures’.

What on earth are you going to do if your child grows up and wants to marry a Black person? Will you tell your grandchild not to do the BPTC because if they don’t get pupillage, they would be wholly to blame?

(5)(1)

Bumblebee

People aged 16 – 21 are also underrepresented at the Bar. Do you think this is because the Bar is agist?

(22)(17)

Bumblebee

Stop with the rascism, it’s really shocking that in 2019 people hold these beliefs. I’ve reported your comment.

(1)(2)

Bumblebee

At the risk of staring an “I’m Spartacus” thread, the comment at 2:21pm wasn’t me.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Yes, it probably is on that basis and something should definately be done about it. Do you have the actual figures for that?

(0)(1)

Anonymous

“Definately” is always a sound marker of the truly thick. This post helps prove that principle. It definately does.

(6)(1)

Anonymous

So? How does that prove racism? I want my Chambers to take on the best candidate regardless of race or gender or sexuality. If that means a string of white men then I’m happy with it as long as they were the strongest candidates.

(29)(9)

Anonymous

Most BPTC grads are unlikely to get pupillage at all, of course, but I guess that’s a conversation for another day.

(17)(0)

Anonymous

The majority of students trying to become barristers are, in my experience, delusional fantasists from mediocre universities whose dreams of being a barrister are in tension with their deeply sub-par CVs. This holds true for individuals of every colour. The Bar might as well just explicitly say that a first from a top university (Oxbridge/London/Bristol/Durham) is a minimum requirement except where candidates have strong professional or personal experience in lieu.

(37)(4)

Anonymous

They really should, but then no-one would ‘like’ their Twitter posts, go on dates with them, listen to their soliloquies the pub, offer to look after their ‘fur baby’ whilst they knock back thirty Aperol spritzes per day in Umbria or send Christmas cards

(21)(0)

Anonymous

If you want to practise at the commercial or chancery bar, you need to be an Oxbridge graduate; the family/construction/libel/criminal/general common law sets are less picky, because you don’t have to be as clever to do the work.

(13)(10)

Redbrick Criminal

I think this is true.

(2)(3)

Anonymous

Considering the state of some of these comments, are we actually surprised at the appalling figures mentioned in the article?

(29)(45)

Anonymous

What an inane article. Who cares what marks someone gets on the BPTC? The vocational training is not a factor one ever takes into account on pupillage applications. Indeed trying too hard that year can be black mark in my book.

(18)(2)

Anonymous

I have seen many, many barristers go on screaming rants in chambers, at mini-pupils and within the offices of legal tribunal charities.

(11)(22)

Anonymous

Barristers are the weeds of the galaxy.

(4)(4)

Anonymous

This article is just trolling the readers and inflaming racial tension on the most superficial analysis of the statistics possible.

(12)(3)

Bumblebee

No, I’m sorry LC but this is completely unacceptable. You haven’t even attempted to submit the BSB’s press release to even the slightest bit of journalistic scrutiny.

There are so many problems with this article I don’t know where to start. But let’s take the following excerpt.

“For example, white BPTC grads with a first in their undergraduate degree and an ‘Outstanding’ grade in the BPTC had pupillage in 84% of cases. The figure for ethnic minorities who had pulled off the same feat was just 72%.”

That sounds pretty interesting, right? Wrong. When one actually looks at the figures, one learns that over the period 2015-2017 not a SINGLE black student obtained both a First and an Outstanding, and only between 7 and 17 “Asian and other Minority Ethnic” students did so. The numbers are so low, that it is patently foolish to make a percentage comparison of the type cited in the article. Just one or two BAME students getting or failing to get a pupillage would shift the balance in either direction.

(54)(5)

Anonymous

So impassioned about the necessity of needing both a First and an Outstanding to practice.

Do you believe Black candidates should not be considered without these?

(3)(16)

Bumblebee

No. Nor white and “AME” candidates, for that matter.

(12)(0)

AME!

🎶Me wanna lib for-eva!!!🎶

(6)(1)

Big Dolla

Of course not.

(3)(0)

Bumblebee

What are you chatting about? Rascism pure and simple.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Also doesn’t seem to notice that BAME candidates take 16.8% of pupillages, despite making up only 15% of the population. Why don’t they talk about that – the fact that actually the current cohort looks pretty diverse – some could even say entirely reflective of the ethnic makeup of England and Wales!

(13)(1)

Anonymous

Loads are on the £12,000 crime ones, not the £65,000 commercial ones in London.

Plenty of chancery, public law and commercial sets in London with only one or two minorities that aren’t the cleaning staff. Really stands out on the website, as no other office in London look like that.

Why so much anger? Do you think BAMEs are taking away opportunities from you?

(6)(15)

Anonymous

They don’t look angry to me. Just not keen on divisive race-baiting bullshit being based on misleading statistics.

(16)(2)

Anonymous

Indeed , I wasn’t angry (I made the comment which said the pupil cohort was “entirely representative”).

I think it is a great sign that 16.8% of pupils are BAME. That’s how many there should be statistically.

I think you have to be careful about screaming that people are underrepresented, instead of encouraging applicants by pointing to the fact that the current cohort of pupils is actually very Representative. Why put people off? What does it gain.

I’m not saying that there is no place for commentary on these things. For example, there is a discussion to be had about the spread of pupils between different practice areas. Notwithstanding, coming out with an eye catching strap lines like this article does is just unhelpful.

Anonymous

This isn’t the best argument, as you would need to look at the cohort of BPTC graduates to determine what is representative of the pool of potential applicants into the profession, or even the percentage of the population who are BAME at the average age of those who get pupillage.

If we follow this argument we would also expect a fairly substantial proportion of new pupils to not have degrees, and only around 2% to have been to Oxbridge, or are you only interested in representativeness when it comes to ethnicity and nothing else?

Being entirely representative of the population of England and Wales doesn’t seem to be too important a factor for the profession when it comes to recruitment into the profession, so why treat it as such for those from different ethnic backgrounds?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

In 3 years at Cambridge I met 3 black male law students.

One went to UCS and the other two were at Eton (and wore tweed).

True story

(12)(0)

Anonymous

202 places in law. 45% male take up. Let’s say 91 in a year. UK wide the black population is about 3%. I don’t see a problem.

(5)(3)

Random passer-by

Based on your figures, there should have been 8. 3 is less than half of 8. Therefore by your own rubbish statistics, there is an under representation issue.

(6)(9)

Anonymous

45% of 202 students is 90.9.

Of the 90.9 male students, around 3% should be black to correlate to the general population.

3% of 90.9 students is 2.727. Meeting only 3 black male law students is, therefore, perfectly sensical.

Exactly which figure is rubbish? Cambridge’s overall law intake? The number of males in that intake? The number of blacks in the UK? Or is it my calculator that’s off? I’m waiting bated breath to find out.

(2)(2)

Random passer-by

I believe the original comment was on the number of black male students he saw in Cambridge law during the course of his degree, not just in his year. In your haste, you presented per year statistics. I in fact erred slightly as I tried to present the number of black males, based on your stats, for all three year groups in a typical program at any one time. I should probably have looked at 5 years minimum, including the two years above the OP and the two years below the OP, not to mention also the fact some degrees are 4 years long, and there are LLM and PhD students at Cambridge too. You suggested that there should not have been more than 3 black male law students at Cambridge during the entire course of the 3 years the OP was at Cambridge. Which is a bit stupid based on your own figures. Also note the OP didn’t say there were only 3 black students, he said he only encountered 3 black students. You were the idiot who extended that to claim that there should have only been 3 black students any way in total.

Anonymous

I genuinely don’t care what these diversity warriors say.

Anonymous

Quick maths

(2)(0)

Ann

Absolutely disgusting
Asians and other ethnic minories are just as educated and capable of becoming barristers
Maybe someone needs to look at how a candidate is shortlisted for interviews
Is it done on colour

(1)(2)

Anonymous

Agreed and it is disgusting.

Some barristers spend more far time publicly virtue-signalling about refugees, Remain and giving an hour’s billings to Yemeni children than they do bothering to engage with ethnic minorities on an equal level.

They seem to accept minorities as objects of pity, but not as colleagues within the same chambers.

(0)(1)

Anonyman

YAWN.

The tedious ‘racism is still a big issue in the UK’ argument again. Hyperbole at its finest.

SAD!

(23)(6)

Anonymous

Thank you for showing exactly why we still need to stand up to racists.

(12)(31)

Anonymous

And we also need to stand up to ghosts and fairies too.

(10)(3)

Anonymous

Why does it matter what colour, gender or otherwise a person is to be a barrister?

(16)(4)

Anonymous

Mediocre people want to use their gender or race as joker cards to make up for their lack of talent. And if moaning does not work, they can blame their failure on non-existent racism or sexism which makes them feel less inadequate.

(21)(4)

Anonymous

Ah yes- the people who can only make excuses when things don’t go their way.

(0)(2)

Anonymous

Whilst I agree that many mediocre people will try to use wildcards to get ahead, I would disagree with the non-existent racism or sexism comment. I have seen some pretty terrible things in London work places. There’s still a lot of work to do, but it is being done in many places which don’t get the credit they deserve.

I do think a massive barrier that still needs to be addressed is the cronyism and nepotism that runs rampant in the legal profession. It also doesn’t help with the GDL/SQE when that comes in. Suffer through the undergrad QLD to be a lawyer. I honestly believe the playing field would change drastically for the better if they got rid of all this alternative route to qualification nonsense.

(3)(3)

Anonymous

Agree about horrible working environments in London. With so many people reporting the same thing, how can we pretend there isn’t a problem with racism at the Bar?

I had one barrister tell me that he thought the area I grew up in was ‘too Jewish’.

They don’t even try and hide their contempt.

(4)(11)

Anonymous

No-one cares what route one takes. It is what college one attended that matters and how one did there.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Beyond insane. Oh you got a first class law degree at X university but got mediocre grades when you were under voting age? Clearly not good enough to be in the legal sector.

FFS.

Anonymous

2.13, I interview. I can tell you I do not look care about vocational results. In fact if I think people tried too hard at that stage I consider them dull and see it as a negative. One proves ones worth at university not on some inane course one does afterwards.

Former GDL student

What’s your problem with GDL students?

(0)(1)

Anonymous

They are not committed to the profession enough to grind through 3 years of legal education. Even for those with the excuse of not thinking about being a lawyer at the undergrad stage, I know lots of people who at least did the advanced 2-year LLBs at various universities before the BPTC/LPC or did the 3 year JDs in North America. That’s the effort the profession deserves.

Former GDL student

Isn’t the world big enough for both routes?

There are plenty of successful non-law grads at the Bar and in the City.

Sounds like you would rather not have the extra competition.

Anonymous

Watch out – a bunch of racists in the comments. And we wonder why we’re going to have Boris Johnson as PM

(7)(22)

Bored of 'diversity' whinges

Ad Hominem

(Attacking the person): This fallacy occurs when, instead of addressing someone’s argument or position, you irrelevantly attack the person or some aspect of the person who is making the argument. The fallacious attack can also be direct to membership in a group or institution.

Examples:

1. Student: Hey, Professor Moore, we shouldn’t have to read this book by Freud. Everyone knows he used cocaine.
2. Socrates’ arguments about human excellence are rubbish. What could a man as ugly as he know about human excellence.
3. Yeah, I think everyone’s opinion counts on moral matters like that, but that Lila sleeps around with anything. I know of at least one marriage she’s broken up, so why should her opinion count on anything, much less morality?
4. Of course Marx’ theories about the ideal society are bunk. The guy spent all his time in the library.
5. We cannot approve of this recycling idea. It was thought of by a bunch of hippie communist weirdos.
6. There’s no reason to take seriously Nietzsche’s ideas about the Superman. Weak and sickly all his short life, of course he found this concept captivating. In psychology, we call this compensation.
7. I was assigned a personal trainer at the Rec, and he gave me a new workout program. But I don’t have any confidence in his expertise, since he has obvious trouble controlling his own appetite.
8. No, I will not reply. I see no need to defend my views against people when it’s easier just to scream, ‘WACISTS!’…

(12)(0)

Anonymous

What a bizarre way of framing statistics?! Why add on other filters such as “those with a First and Outstanding” when this is not a statistically significant descriptor. It is well known that BPTC grades don’t have much (if any) impact upon securing pupillage.

The Bar Standards Board Publication “Diversity at the Bar” tells us:

16.8% of current pupils are BAME. Only 15% of the English working population is BAME. That means that, statistically, BAME individuals are “over-represented” (statistic comes from the same study). How, then, can it be said there is a diversity issue?

However, when we add all sorts of other filters, you can make the statistics appear to suggest that there is a diversity problem (e.g- “well if you look at all BAME applicants who also own a dog..”.). Insofar as representation at pupillage stage is concerned (which is what this article is focussed upon) there isn’t one.

This article suggests that BAME applicants have a lower chance of obtaining pupillage, yet they make up a larger per-capita percentage of pupils as compared to white candidates. How can that be right?

The true picture is that the Bar as a whole doesn’t have a representation problem, but parts of the Bar have a diversity problem. Even though BAME have higher per capita representation, they invariably are more likely to be at a set which does publicly funded work/personal injury/common law. If you look at what some call “Rich Law” (Commercial – Chancery, Private Client etc) then there is massive gaping under-representation which is not easy to explain away.

(5)(24)

Big Dolla

“This article suggests that BAME applicants have a lower chance of obtaining pupillage, yet they make up a larger per-capita percentage of pupils as compared to white candidates. How can that be right?”

Base rates, my friend. It’s theoretically possible if many more BAME candidates were applying to pupillage in the first place, in which case despite the lower chance, there would be more.

Is this in fact the case? Of course not. But just thought I’d point out that this is entirely possible.

(1)(0)

Bored of 'diversity' whinges

> If you look at what some call “Rich Law” (Commercial – Chancery, Private Client etc) then there is massive gaping under-representation which is not easy to explain away.

Of course it is: objective merit. Black candidates underperform at every level. See the comments beneath the Stormzy article: https://www.legalcheek.com/2019/07/future-ashurst-trainee-solicitor-has-book-published-by-stormzy/#comment-section

There were further unpalatable truths published in comments in this article earlier, but they have been deleted. This sort of censorship (in society, rather than on a random student website) (a) disadvantages black students as they fail to understand the actual reasons for underrepresentation, and instead become obsessed by alleged racism; and (b) renders deeply cynical the 97% of the UK population who are not black, and makes us suspect that ‘diversity and inclusion’ is simply a cunning wheeze to introduce positive discrimination at everyone else’s expense, while suppressing any discussion or dissent.

(32)(0)

Anonymous

I wish you had the guts to tell a Black Bar applicant to their face that you believe they ‘underperform at every level’.

I really do.

(4)(25)

Anonymous

As “they” means the social group rather than individual then I would because it is demonstrably true. There is no point about moaning about the black representation at employment end points if the education system produces much fewer black candidates that meet the academic expectations of employers. Moan at the schools, that’s where the problem is.

(7)(0)

Bored of 'diversity' whinges

>”Moan at the schools, that’s where the problem is.”

No, parents. Two-parent families are critical. In the US context, in ‘The Audacity of Hope’, Barack Obama complained that some “liberal policy makers and civil rights leaders had erred” when “in their urgency to avoid blaming the victims of historical racism, they tended to downplay or ignore evidence that entrenched behavioral patterns among the black poor really were contributing to intergenerational poverty.” One can argue the same here. There’s an interesting article about the Moynihan report, here: https://www.educationnext.org/moynihan-and-the-single-parent-family. That’s obviously US-focused, but we are seeing similar issues in UK inner cities (also among working-class whites, particularly in low socio-economic areas such as Liverpool and Glasgow).

To reiterate in summary, though: differences in careers outcomes start at home: with parents, not with employers. “Given the current pool of candidates available, a system which solely rewards merit must necessarily come at the expense of diversity. This may be a bitter pill for the politically correct brigade to swallow, but the facts speak for themselves; the data clearly show a significant gap in the average aptitude of white and black applicants, and therefore we should EXPECT a significant gap in attainment.” (see other article, for the full quote from Bumblebee).

Anonymous

The chancery/commercial London places try to hide behind the ‘You need a 1st, not many Black people have those. Ha!’ excuse, but I personally know juniors in those places within the last 10 years who have 2.1s (albeit Oxbridge). Some wealthier Oxbridge colleges also give out academic prizes for the person in college who performs best on an exam paper out of the other students in that college, not by achieving a 1st overall.

Top tip for chancery applications – you remember that voluntary work you did at Lourdes? Big up that Catholicism…

(5)(15)

BAME Person

Thank you LC.

Many at the Bar speak of minorities only as statistics for their arguments. They’ll Tweet about racism getting worse in the UK, how Brexiteers are necessarily racist, how sorry they are for refugees and won’t somebody please think of the children in Yemen.

But some of these same barristers work in chambers with only one or two people who aren’t White with parents born in the UK. They never meet or get to really know anyone from Yemen, Syria, Africa or anywhere else. They don’t have these people as pupils in their set and have no idea what these people think, feel or what their talents are.

BAME people aren’t stupid. We know when someone is sincere about treating us as people because they just get on with it. We are thus able to get on with the job at hand because we’re not being treated like a zoo animal, constantly asked stupid questions about our background and can get through the day without bullying or shouting. I sincerely believe BAME people could perform well at Chancery or Commercial work in London if given the chance. There are no statistics for BAME people ‘underperforming’ in these chambers once they actually get there.

When some White barristers play the ‘virtue-signalling hero’, how they are perceived by others matters more than actually listening to what a BAME person is saying, because of course the virtue-signaller thinks he’s better.

We need to engage our critical thinking faculties more when looking at issues of race in the UK. Are those who speak of BAMEs the most self-serving and how is their position different from what BAME people are really saying?

(10)(13)

Stank Bruno

It’s not the Bar’s duty to compensate for black people being, on average, less well-educated.

(23)(6)

Anonymous

You’re a wanker

(5)(16)

Bored of 'diversity' whinges

Well done. You’re demonstrating his point, by evidencing your inability to either (a) recognise; or (b) engage with his point.

There are none so blind as those who will not see…

(6)(1)

Anonymous

Women are taking more places than men in legal profession. If you need a guaranteed placement you must be a good looking girl/mature lady who can please both clients and boss at the same time.

The universities should only admit those students who have secured a pupillage otherwise there is no point of study this expensive course which has lots of discrimination problems both during the course and after the course!! They dont want new people in this profession especially foreigners! I personally witnessed back stabbing by few lecturers during the course to foreign students!!!!

(1)(1)

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