In 2019 the Bar Standards Board issued a number of statistics as part of their ‘Diversity at the Bar’ campaign. Disappointingly, but as expected, the numbers were incredibly low, highlighting just how important it is to make the Bar more diverse.
Whilst the UK was in the throes of lockdown due to COVID-19, Bridging the Bar was founded in response to the palpable lack of diversity at the Bar. Bridging the Bar is an initiative aimed at better supporting students hoping to enter the Bar but also reinforcing the need for Chambers and Barrister associations to hold diversity at the forefront of their aims and missions.
You can also check out some of the statistics from the Bar Standards Board campaign on the Bridging the Bar website.
Bridging the Bar’s vision for the future is clear. They strive for a society in which the Bar is accessible for everyone regardless of race, sex, class or other characteristics.
Bridging the Bar believes that every organisation must reflect the diverse society that we all live in, if they want to reach their full potential. This is particularly important for the judiciary. There is a clear lack of diversity on the Supreme Court bench which is not a true representation of the society that we live in.
Whilst there has already been a lot of good work undertaken to diversify the Bar and support those coming through, there is still more to do. There are many individuals and organisations helping to inspire and support students from non-traditional backgrounds aspiring to a career at the Bar.
Bridging the Bar believe that the ‘bridge’ between today’s Bar and the diverse Bar of the future can be built by achieving three objectives:
1. Equal Opportunities
Their website highlights what each of these entail in more detail.
Life at the Bar and the application process can be tough. Bridging the Bar is planning to work with leaders in their fields to deliver workshops on core non-legal skills such as how to better manage your mental health, adversity, resilience, perseverance etc.
Bridging the Bar is committed to increasing access to opportunities in the legal profession across all underrepresented groups. They will do this by helping students who, owing to their disability, ethnic background, socio-economic background, education or sexuality, and at present are statistically underrepresented in the profession.
We spoke to Will Marsden, Communications Officer at Bridging the Bar on why there is such a need for this charity:
“Bridging the Bar was founded in response to the lack of diversity at the Bar. The Bar has overwhelmingly been the preserve of the privileged, we exist to change that.
As evidenced by the 50 Chambers already signed up to our flagship mini-pupillage scheme, there is appetite for change across all practice areas.
We hope to change the landscape for young people from all over the country so that no matter where you come from or the colour of your skin, your entry into the profession is predicated on a level playing field.”
It is important that the Bar continues to develop the work they are doing to improve diversity to make the Bar more inclusive and a better reflection of society. As mentioned by Will Marsden, large numbers of Chambers and Bar Associations have already signed up to help support Bridging the Bar and some even joined as Founding Partners.
Last year Lexis, published ‘A Brave New Bar’, a report looking at the challenges faced by the Bar, but also opportunities for growth.
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