Chambers using blind recruitment less diverse, research claims

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By Rhys Duncan on


BSB describes finding as ‘striking’

Chambers that use blind or contextual recruitment tools in pupillage applications have a greater proportion of white and male pupils than sets that don’t adopt the tools, research has found.

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) report shows that 42% of pupillage providers used blind recruitment methods, meaning that candidates’ personal information is not seen by the those carrying out the shortlisting for interviews. This can include omitting the candidates name, school or university. For the largest sets, this figure rises close to two-thirds.

Although less popular, the report also found that 18% of chambers used contextual recruitment, factoring in a candidates’ personal circumstances when assessing their applications. Both forms of recruitment techniques were most commonly used by providers specialising in commercial law.

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The “most striking finding”, the BSB said, was that chambers who did use blind or contextual recruitment had a “higher proportion of male pupils and a higher proportion of white pupils” than sets that didn’t.

Despite this, the recruitment tools may have played a role elsewhere, with chambers using blind recruitment having a marginally higher proportion of pupils who attended state schools than those that did not.

“This suggests that for many organisations, adopting particular recruitment approaches such as contextual or blind recruitment may have a relatively limited impact in terms of increasing the proportion of their pupils who are female or from minority ethnic backgrounds.”

Earlier this year the BSB launched a consultation which proposed, amongst other things, removing the degree requirement of a 2:2 to become a barrister. This, it said, could make the profession more diverse, with “graduates who are more likely to achieve a degree classification of lower than a 2:2 are more likely to be from Black, and Asian backgrounds, which under the current requirements could negatively impact such applicants”.

The Bar Council responded by objecting to the majority of proposals, including the one outlined above, saying that such a move would simply lead to more students investing substantial amounts in bar training only to struggle in securing a pupillage and practicing as barristers.



What’s the point of having a standard board who’s aim is to continually lower the standards? Universities and professional bodies should not be in the business of lower standards to make up for deficiencies in the schools system. That problem of equality of access to a good education needs to be addressed by the government and the schools. We’re going to end up with a poorly funded legal system, stuffed with poorly educated people, just so that right boxes can be ticked on a few forms. The system is not fairer is all in society suffer from lower standards.

Pupillage panel

No surprise there.


I’m not really sure why they are surprised. The usefulness of “cv blind applications” are still going to be limited by the algorithms chosen. If those algorithms unintentionally have a white, male bias then that’s going to be reflected in the recruitment.


Reaching hard here, you don’t know the applicant statistics, you don’t know the percentage of BAME versus white applicants at each stage and your comment about algorithms is unevidenced conjecture.
I imagine you would like parity between all individuals regardless of the statistical representation in the population. Considering the current splits in university attendance I would expect over 50% of applicants to be female regardless of ethnicity but that would be seen as a positive change so nothing to complain about.


Every comment here is unevidenced conjecture. It’s not exactly an article brimming with detail is it? However, it doesn’t take a genius to go and look at some of the application forms for these “cv blind” recruitment efforts to see the bias (mainly age bias, more than anything else). Regardless, the best applications will always come from those coached in what to write.

As for your second paragraph, deary me if that’s not unevidenced conjecture than what is?

Archibald O'Pomposity

It is spelt “dearie”, not “deary”.


These findings could in fact suggest that non-blind recruitment processes simply discriminate against white males.

It would seem a simpler explanation than finding some elusive discrinatory algorithm within a blind selection process which was designed to promote fairness.

This obsession with diversity over meritocracy needs to end.

Oh Boy

I know – there are hardly any male barristers.

So much discrimination out there!

Australian barrister

Why? We have had positive discrimination in favour of men for thousands of years. Men, of course, think they achieve on “merit”.


So not bending over backwards to fulfil some woke diversity quota filling requirements, and simply hiring the best person, is a good idea after all? Well I never.

Australian barrister

Except that “merit” to date includes a penis , with extra points for “your daddy knows my daddy” and “gosh, we share the same posh almer mater”….


I will overlook your coarse language (which devalues any fait whiff of an argument) and address what may charitably be described as your point.

You are clearly and factually incorrect, and merely a trope rolled out by those who have failed in life and looking for someone to blame, rather than addressing their own inadequacies. Open your eyes for a second, spend a moment searching barristers chambers’ websites, and please return with an apology once you see the high calibre individuals employed who belie your theory.


How can you genuinely have ‘blind recruitment’?

If you state you are the president of your university’s Afro Caribbean Society or your law degree comes from Pakistan, it’s pretty obvious to the pupillage committee that they aren’t looking at an application from a White candidate.

Snooty McSnoot

Whatever not? A chap I went to school with was white, blond and blue eyed, yet did his medical degree in Bangladesh… Don’t make assumptions.

Archibald O'Pomposity

I am no intellectual snob, but I must say that the BSB has taken leave of its senses.

Any measures to improve access for members of talented but underrepresented demographics ought to be welcomed. But significant academic ability is required to practise as a barrister. A Third Class degree has (for many decades) been regarded as a proxy for a fail.

Given that the majority of students across most academic disciplines achieve Upper Seconds anyway (reflecting the general devaluing of exam results), those who are right at the bottom of their graduating class must have minimal (and, at best, unreliable) ability to research, analyse and evaluate large quantities of complex information.

I would not trust such a barrister to represent me.


In my experience with “CV blind” recruitment, you don’t get any more diverse candidates, you just get a bunch of posh kids who mucked up their A-levels or spent too much time drinking with the University Boat Club, but who know the right things to say at interview.

For many “non-traditional” candidates, their academics ARE their selling point. Some young people have got top grades at very average schools. Not giving full credit for this is not helping social mobility in the slightest.

Not A Barrister

In an ideal world the schooling system and the government would provide all with access to ‘good education’. If this was the case, it wouldn’t be of such a concern to factor in diversity because if all ethnicities and genders etc had the same level of education, by the law of averages, the pool of candidates would presumably reach the diversity ‘threshold’.

Of course this is not the case and providers are, some would say, artificially creating a diverse workplace by favouring diverse candidates. Many argue merit should still trump this, but others counter this saying white candidates statistically hold better grades.

This is where the fascination over academic achievement can cloud any ideal definition of ‘merit’. Simply put, ones ability to show logical reasoning, an ability to dissect facts and information accurately and the other necessary traits of being a barrister might be more closely aligned with what ‘merit’ entails. This is opposed to one achieving an A* in A-Level Biology.

If merit was to encompass one’s ability to carry out the aforementioned skills (of course evidenced by extracurricular or work experience), then this might be a way to fairly navigate the perceived unfairness in access to education than placing too great a weight on academic achievement.

Of course academic ‘excellence’ is a sound measurement of the candidate’s prospect at the bar, and in no way it’s this argument saying academic ‘excellence’ or results in general should be ignored. The requirement for a 2:1 minimum does seem lenient. But those with a 2:2 should not be judged solely on this (as someone in this thread did so) and other their achievements should be factored in. By the way, I achieved higher than a 2:2 but I still think there is credit in the above argument.


Blind / Anon recruitment practices does create a more diverse pool of candidates if done in a realistic & appropriate way with the correct approach.

Merely introducing it into current practices will realistically change little to nothing. Hiring as a process, has more stages that you need to consider including the talent pool, job boards, job specs etc. If you aren’t reaching a diverse talent pool already and you won’t receive those applications, it won’t change much. You can’t just tick one box to create a fair process and leave the rest un-touched.

People arguing about “woke” or other issues, it’s quite simple. Bias exists. Especially in hiring practices, we are all bias. You can’t eliminate these. If you want to create a fair approach, focus on the skills & competencies of the application, one way to do this is by blind recruitment.

Realistically CV applications are outdated and details we share about our personal information shouldn’t be a part of the conversation. It bares no relevance on your ability to complete the job.

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