COVID hits Pupillages at the Bar

Figures from the Bar Standards Board show that COVID 19 has had an impact on new barrister numbers, but progress is being made on diversity.

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LONDON (Within The Law) - New figures paint a picture of the impact COVID 19 is having on the legal profession. While the proportion of barristers from an ethnic minority background is on the rise, the pandemic has flattened new pupillages and barristers.

According to the figures, there were 17,432 people at the bar as of December 1st. This was made up of 1,870 QCs, 15,208 non-QCs and 354 pupils. This equates to an increase of 36 QCs and 60 non-QCs. However, with many chambers delaying their start dates, there are 121 fewer pupils.

According to the annual diversity report from the Bar Standards Board (BSB), the increase in non-QCs is lower than recent averages, something they say could be down to the number of non-QCs leaving the bar this year.

On the positive side, the figures suggested some progress in increasing the number of women and people from minority ethnic groups (38.2% and 14.1% respectively.) With minority ethnic groups comprising 13.3% of the working population, the sector does seem to be making some progress. 

However male QCs still outnumber female QCs even though the number has crept up a tiny proportion from 16.2% to 16.3%. However, the number of female pupils has dropped slightly to half.

The proportion of UK schooled barristers who come from a private school background has also been slowly trending downwards from 39.6% in 2015 to 37% in 2020. 47% of barristers say they were the first person in their family to attend university. 

BSB head of equality and access to justice, Amit Popat, said: “While we are pleased to see that the Bar is increasingly diverse, there is still more work to be done to make the profession truly representative of society.

“As the regulator, we are committed to taking action to help achieve greater diversity. We are currently reviewing our equality rules, have published an anti-racist statement for barristers and chambers, and recently launched a pilot race equality reverse mentoring scheme to address cultural barriers to equality at the Bar.”

(Written by Tom Cropper, edited by Klaudia Fior)

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