More than a quarter of pupil barristers encounter bullying or harassment

Avatar photo

By Rhys Duncan on


Significantly higher number of women experienced issues personally

Over a quarter of pupil barristers personally experienced or observed bullying, harassment, or discrimination during their pupillage, new research has shown.

Twenty-six percent of the 173 pupils surveyed as part of the Bar Council Pupil Survey 2024 reported witnessing or experiencing inappropriate behaviour. A significantly higher number of women experienced these issues personally, 28% of those surveyed having personal experience compared to only 3% of men.

Those with disabilities also faced higher levels of bullying, harassment, and discrimination, 41% of disabled pupils reporting an incident compared to 13% of pupils without a disability.

Elsewhere, the survey notes that 31% of pupils succeeded in securing pupillage on their first attempt, with 34% making the cut on the second attempt, 18% on the third attempt, and 17% after four or more attempts.

The report also found that 91% of pupils found the process either ‘very’ or ‘quite’ challenging, and that men were twice as likely to receive a pupillage award of £60,000 or more when compared to their female counterparts.

Once at the bar, 44% of surveyed rookies reported working between 41-50 hours per week, while 41% stated they worked 50 hours or more. Only 15% worked 40 hours or less.

Eighty-six percent reported having a positive pupillage experience overall, with 94% stating they would recommend a career at the bar to others.

The 2024 Legal Cheek Chambers Most List

Commenting on the findings, Sam Townend KC, chair of the Bar Council, said:

“The high percentage of pupils describing their pupillage as positive is testament to the high standard of training delivered by the Bar to the next generation. Barristers and chambers professionals make sure pupils receive the guidance and support they need. That 94% of pupils said they would recommend a career at the Bar to others is wonderful news, to the credit of all barristers who give their time for free to train pupils and shows real confidence in the future of the Bar. It is particularly noticeable that pupils consider the quality of supervision to be high, whether that is delivered in person or online.”

He continued: “There is more work to do to make sure that every pupil has the support they need to thrive in their careers. Disabled pupils in particular report feeling less well-supported. Organisations such as Bringing [Dis]Ability to the Bar are doing excellent work to break down barriers to the profession and the Bar Council’s own Disability Panel will look at the Pupil Survey 2024 findings to consider what more can be done.”

Earlier this year, Legal Cheek reported that the overall number of pupillage spots is on the rise , reaching a new peak of 638. The number of applicants also rose, however, with just under 3,000 budding barristers vying for the spots.



We don’t know how many of these allegations are true and how many are false.


Do you have any data showing that a lot of allegations pupils make about harassment turns out to be false?


What you say is true, but the fact that this many people report that they have experienced this is nonetheless worrying. Neither the names of the pupils nor their sets are reported, and I assume pupils knew this would be the case. They have nothing to gain from making an allegation they know to be false. I would therefore suggest that even we do not know whether the allegation is true or false, we can reasonably infer that they were founded by a genuinely held belief.


I am a retired clerk and in 1980 my then senior clerk locked a male pupil in the toilet all day on his first day in chambers for his 2nd six. I still wet my pants when I think about it.


This generation hasn’t heard of “survival of the fittest”.

A Barrister

This does not surprise me at all.

I personally suffered behaviour I would say constituted bullying, as a pupil. I heard similar horror stories from my contemporaries at other sets, none of whom were wallflowers or particularly sensitive.

Join the conversation

Related Stories

Number of pupillage spots on offer hits a record high

But number of applicants also up

Feb 26 2024 8:45am

Wayne Rooney applied to study law at Nottingham Uni

'I want to do it to get one of those wigs on!'

Feb 21 2024 11:36am