Nearly 60% of pupil barristers are women, new data shows

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By Legal Cheek on


BSB’s diversity report shows number of rookie barristers on the rise

The Bar Standards Boards’ annual report on diversity at the bar has shown further increases in diversity across the profession.

The report, covering data from 2023, showed that almost 60% of pupils are female, with the proportion of women KCs increasing 1% to just over one in five silks.

The percentage of barristers from minority ethnic backgrounds has also increased by 0.6%. The total figure now sits at 16.9%, compared to a working age population of 16.7%. However, this number dips down to 10.7% for KCs.

At the pupil level, the document shows a continued increase in diversity. Whilst 60% of pupils are female, 24.9% are from minority ethnic backgrounds. This latter group is broken down by the report into four categories.

Those from Asian/Asian British backgrounds make up 11.3% of the total pupillage cohort, 8.2% of all barristers, 5% of KCs, and 7% of the working population, according to the report. Meanwhile those from Black/Black British backgrounds, contribute 6.2% to the total pupil figure, compared with 3.6% of all barristers, 1.4% of KCs, and 4.1% of the working population.

Also included are those from mixed/multiple ethnic groups who make up 5.6% of pupils, 3.7% of all barristers, 2.7% KCs, and 1.7% of the working population, and other ethnic groups, adding a further 1.7% of recruits and making up 1.5% at the bar, 1.7% of KCs, and 3.9% of the working population.

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Elsewhere, the data showed an increase in the overall number of practitioners up to 18,356, with 572 of these pupils. This marks a raise of 84 from the previous pupil figures, and is the highest recorded by the report first published in 2015.

Commenting on the report, Mark Neale, the director general of the BSB, said:

“It is encouraging to see the bar continuing to become more representative of the society that it serves, with increases in 2023 in the proportion of women barristers, barristers from minority ethnic backgrounds and barristers with disabilities.”

He continued: “Despite this progress, these groups remain underrepresented at the most senior levels of the bar. This underlines the importance of the work we are doing to review our equality and diversity rules and to work proactively with the profession to support barristers and chambers in meeting those rules. I would urge all barristers to respond to the questionnaire we include when barristers renew their practising certificates, so that we can obtain the most accurate picture of the diversity of the bar.”


Just Anonymous

I think we need some clarity as to what ‘increasing diversity’ actually means.

If ‘increasing diversity’ means increasing the ability of all people to fairly compete for access to, and success at, the Bar, irrespective of their protected characteristics and limited only by their abilities, then I am all for it.

If ‘increasing diversity’ means increasing the proportion of traditionally under-represented groups at the Bar, even where the same are now objectively over-represented, then I do not think this is something we should be striving for.

Ex Barrister

Of course those groups remain underrepresented at the most senior level of the Bar. It’s going to take time for those who have started in recent years to get to that level.

It will be interesting to see how many of the 60% are able to continue in self employed practice as time goes on. The lack of maternity leave makes life very difficult for new parents and many leave the profession at that point.


Why is that? The vast majority of barristers will have several years’ income in aged debt, which should comfortably see you through maternity leave and beyond.

Return to work with some direct access paid up front work, and I would have thought barristers were better placed to weather a few months off than most self employed people


Would be actually useful know just how many of these so-called individuals who increase diversity are privately educated and/or come from wealthy backgrounds. Let’s just stop and remember that the Bar Council were holding up Lord Steyn’s daughter as someone as a diversity champion. See also the Bar Council’s I am the Bar initiative where one “champion” indicated ‘my parents were both doctors but…’

Bob Cryer

Interesting that Bar are not releasing any figures about how many barristers come from impoverished or modest backgrounds, which let’s face it, is the true measure of diversity.

State comp educated white, male barrister

I would echo much of what has been said in the comments already.

Increasing the representation of under-represented groups at the Bar so that it reflects broader society is obviously a good thing. We do an important job representing clients from all sections of society.

It’s a difficult pill to swallow, however, being seen as “the problem” with diversity at the Bar when the vast majority of women and BAME barristers I know are from extremely privileged backgrounds and are held up as diversity champions. In one way, of course, they are, and it is right that their success should be celebrated.

However, because I “look and sound” like a barrister – the sound being a natural product of my university and profession, I’m afraid it does happen – the fact of my upbringing is denied and diminished by the very same groups who purportedly advocate for diversity at the Bar.

Do they think that poor, white boys ought not to aspire to the Bar?

Bamer babe

You’ve answered your own question.

The Bar does not need more people who
look and sound like you.

An Observer

A female colleague summed up the position as posh boys being replaced by posh girls.

All of the “diverse” barristers in my Chambers come from major public schools.

There would seem to be a misplaced single focus on race and sex. Social mobility is what will truly broaden the Bar.

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