Magic circle sets look to tackle bar’s ongoing diversity problem
Six of the country’s leading commercial law chambers have come together to mentor barrister hopefuls from “under-represented” groups.
Members from magic circle sets Blackstone, Brick Court, Essex Court, Fountain Court, One Essex Court and 3 Verulam Buildings, will join forces as part of a seven-month mentoring scheme that aims to support and encourage individuals to pursue careers at the bar, and in particular, the commercial bar.
The new initiative, ‘Mentoring for Under-represented Groups’, targets women, people from ethnic minority backgrounds, those who have spent time in care or are from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, LGBTQ+ people and those with disabilities.
It is understood to be the first major collaboration between the elite sets to tackle the bar’s ongoing diversity problem. The Bar Standards Board’s (BSB) latest report on the gender, ethnicity and social background of barristers in England and Wales, revealed that the bar continues to be much less diverse than the country as a whole.
The scheme will run between November this year and June 2021, with applications open until 2 October 2020. It is open to all undergraduates and graduates from groups that are under-represented at the bar, and who do not yet have a pupillage offer.
Successful applicants will be allocated a mentor, who will be a member of one of the participating chambers, with whom they will have between three and five one-on-one meetings. They will take part in a workshop to help with pupillage applications, and, subject to developments around COVID-19, one or more social events with their mentors and other members from the participating chambers.
Brick Court’s Sarah Abram, a competition barrister who is a member of the committee that set up the scheme, said:
“The six barristers’ chambers involved in this scheme recognise that we all need to do more to improve diversity at the bar. Factors like your gender, social background and ethnicity shouldn’t make any difference to your chance of becoming a barrister. All six of the sets want to make it clear that a career as a barrister is open to everyone, regardless of who they are or where they come from.”
She continued: “We hope that the mentoring scheme will help to make a career at the bar more accessible to people from a range of backgrounds, by putting applicants in touch with an individual mentor who is able to give information and advice, and offering a workshop to help with pupillage applications.”