Top commercial chambers join forces to launch new social mobility mentoring scheme

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One-on-one guidance, application workshops and more, with applications now open

A group of 20 leading commercial chambers have joined forces to launch a new mentoring programme with the aim of encouraging students from under-represented groups to pursue careers as barristers.

To qualify for the scheme, applicants will have started university, but need not yet be studying law, and must fall into a group which is considered under-represented at the commercial bar.

The group behind the scheme, The Commercial Bar Association (COMBAR), gives examples as being applicants with a predominantly state school education, first generation applicants, applicants with disabilities, women, black applicants, and LGBTQ+ applicants. They emphasise that this list is non-exhaustive.

Places on the scheme will be allocated based on the student’s need and potential, with both given equal weight. Assessment criteria include intellectual ability, ability to write/speak persuasively, and evidence of a desire to pursue a career at the bar. Educational and social background will also be taken into consideration, as will extenuating circumstances.

Those who are successful in their application will be allocated an individual mentor who will be a member of one of the participating sets of chambers. Over the course of the scheme, the mentor and mentee will arrange a number of one-on-one mentoring meetings, with mentees also invited to attend a workshop on applications for pupillage and a social event with fellow mentees and members from participating chambers.

Commenting on the new mentoring programme, COMBAR chair and Essex Court Chambers tenant David Joseph QC told Legal Cheek:

“The promotion of diversity at the commercial bar is one of COMBAR’s core aims. It is vital that the commercial bar recruits from the most talented future practitioners, including, in particular, those from backgrounds that have traditionally been under-represented. This mentoring scheme is an important further step in promoting access and demonstrating that the commercial bar is open to all with the ability to succeed.”

The 2021 Legal Cheek Chambers Most List

Legal Cheek is also pleased to announce it will act as exclusive media partner for the programme, ensuring that it reaches as many potential applicants as possible.

To apply, students should complete this application form by 4pm on Friday 16 September 2022.

In addition to the mentoring scheme, COMBAR also provides up to ten COMBAR scholarships (funded work placements for students from less affluent backgrounds) per year through Inner Temple and Middle Temple, and two scholarships per year for black or mixed black ethnicity students to study the BCL at the University of Oxford.

The participating chambers are: Blackstone Chambers; Brick Court Chambers; Devereux Chambers; Essex Court Chambers; Fountain Court Chambers; Gatehouse Chambers; Henderson Chambers; Keating Chambers; One Essex Court; 7 King’s Bench Walk; 11 King’s Bench Walk; Monckton Chambers; 4 New Square; 4 Pump Court; Serle Court; South Square; 2 Temple Gardens; Twenty Essex; 3 Verulam Buildings; and XXIV Old Buildings.

You can meet many of the chambers participating in the mentoring scheme at The Legal Cheek Virtual Pupillage Fairs on 8 October and 1 December 2022. Applications for the October Fair are now open.

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Mixed Race Person

“The promotion of diversity at the commercial bar is one of COMBAR’s core aims”

If diversity is so important to commercial barristers, why is it only NOW that COMBAR has decided to act? Any BAME applicant can see with their own eyes the lack of minorities at the commercial bar.

Scholarships enrich educational institutions. Press releases and websites about diversity bring kudos to those writing them.

I feel neither of these things actually helps BAME applicants secure pupillage, nor puts money in their bank accounts.



Get an Oxbridge first. That is what helps applicants secure pupillage and puts money in their bank accounts.



As if every single commercial barrister currently practising has an Oxbridge First and a BCL.

They definitely don’t.



Odd “logic” there, I hope the law is not your target profession.


Dr Who

“If diversity is so important to commercial barristers, why is it only NOW that COMBAR has decided to act?” What do you suggest? Everyone gets in a time machine and changes the past?


Time Machine?? WTF?

There was literally nothing stopping commercial chambers from taking on BAME applicants, which undoubtedly would have led to far more BAME QCs and senior judges than there are now.


Dr Who

So you are talking about recruitment decisions 20, 25, 30 years ago as a criticism of current efforts. Let me get the TARDIS ready and we will sort this out.



I remember a set of chambers (that last took on a BAME barrister in 2001) recently publishing a snazzy website about diversity, their diversity consultants and promoting scholarships to help Black BPTC applicants.

I looked at the chambers’ website this morning. There are no Black pupils or barristers there. But there were many superbly talented Black BPTC students on my BPTC course and at my Inn.



If there were 2 tenants a year, statistically one would expect 0 or 1 black tenants over the last 20 years as the most likely expected outcomes given the demographic population of the UK. So the points you make don’t really go that far.


Commercial Bar

Keating is not a commercial chambers. It is a construction set.

Gatehouse, 2TG and 11KBW are common law chambers – not commercial.



They are all members of the Commercial Bar Association (COMBAR), hence their involvement in this scheme



looool ok mate


A competitor of 11KBW

11KBW is common law…

Have you lost your mind?

It’s public, commercial, employment and data protection.


A common lawyer

What is wrong with being a common lawyer. Many sets are in truth common law sets they just try and hide it.



Class is the biggest problem at the Bar. It is easily redressed. Just recruit more people called Darren and Hannah, and fewer called Charles and Alice.



COMBAR, you do know that you can increase diversity at the commercial bar simply by choosing ethnic minority candidates…?

Always an option. But that puts the blame rightly on barristers behind the decisions, instead of distracting everyone with word salad.


Evidence helps

And where is the evidence that pupillage are not given out in a manner that broadly reflects the percentage of ethnic minorities in the UK population? Last time I checked the percentage of ethnic minorities obtaining pupillage was substantially above that percentage.



Most BAME barristers work as criminal barristers, not commercial ones.

Why exactly shouldn’t commercial sets have more more BAME barristers?

Ever been to a hospital or GP surgery? You will find substantively more employed BAME medics there there than may found within the general UK population.



So what are you moaning about? You seem to be advocating discriminatory outcomes.


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