One thing which hasn’t changed since I first considered a career as a barrister is that, for somebody without any links to the legal profession, the Bar can seem an alienating place. Historically, as I observed in this book, barristers have been drawn from the narrowest social stratum, rendering the Bar woefully unrepresentative. These problems persist today.
Where there has been important change in recent years, however, is in the outreach work that is carried out by those in and with links to the legal profession, aimed at improving social mobility and making the Bar accessible to people from all backgrounds.
If you are intrigued by the idea of becoming a barrister, or of visiting that fate on somebody you know, below is a (non-exhaustive) list of charities, organisations, schemes and opportunities aimed at opening up the Bar to everybody, so that those standing up in court and representing people in legal proceedings better reflect the communities they serve.
It is a growing list. If you are part of or know of an organisation or scheme that is not listed below, which you would wish to be included, please let me know.
The Bar Council, the representative body for barristers in England and Wales, offers a number of schemes for school and college students, including:
- The Bar Placement Scheme allows sixth-form students to spend three days shadowing a barrister and to receive advocacy training from the Inns of Court College of Advocacy.
- The Bar E-Mentoring scheme is intended to support students from underrepresented backgrounds who are interested in pursuing a career at the Bar.
- If you would like a barrister to give a talk at your school, college or university, the Bar Council has a database of barrister volunteers.
Details of these are here: https://www.barcouncil.org.uk/becoming-a-barrister/school-students.html
The Bar Council also pairs disabled pupils and early practitioners with disabled senior mentors.
The Inns of Court each has their own social mobility programmes and scholarship schemes, summarised below:
- University Advocacy Days are held throughout the year and offer university students the chance to meet barristers and to perform advocacy under the guidance of advocacy trainers. https://www.graysinn.org.uk/joining/outreach/university-advocacy-day-0
- Griffin LAW (Law and Advocacy Workshops) is a programme introducing sixth form students to the legal profession and teaching advocacy skills, culminating in a mock trial held at the Royal Courts of Justice or the Old Bailey. https://www.graysinn.org.uk/joining/outreach/griffin-law
- Vocalise trains law students as ‘debate mentors’ to train prisoners in the skills of public speaking and debating https://www.graysinn.org.uk/joining/vocalise
- Details of the scholarships, prizes and other financial assistance available to those interested in pursuing a career as a barrister are here: https://www.graysinn.org.uk/scholarships
- The Pegasus Access and Support Scheme (PASS) aims to improve access and to support high-achieving students from under-represented backgrounds by securing a funded mini-pupillage in chambers for each participant and providing a professional and advocacy skills development programme. https://www.innertemple.org.uk/becoming-a-barrister/how-to-get-involved/pass/
- Insight Events are held throughout the year, in person and online, to allow school and university students to hear from practising barristers and judges, and to attend networking receptions. https://www.innertemple.org.uk/becoming-a-barrister/how-to-get-involved/insight-events/
- The In Focus series aims to have open and frank round-table discussions, in a safe space, with barristers and prospective barristers about issues faced by underrepresented groups https://www.innertemple.org.uk/becoming-a-barrister/how-to-get-involved/in-focus/
- Details of the scholarships, prizes and other financial assistance available to those interested in pursuing a career as a barrister are here: https://www.innertemple.org.uk/becoming-a-barrister/
- InnSight Sessions are held throughout the year, in person, online and at universities, aimed at demystifying the process of training for the Bar. https://www.lincolnsinn.org.uk/becoming-a-barrister/careers-events/
- The Mini-Pupillage Grant Scheme offers financial support to students wishing to undertake mini-pupillages who would otherwise not be able to do so. https://www.lincolnsinn.org.uk/becoming-a-barrister/funding/
- The Neuberger Prize is targeted at students at non-Russell Group universities, offering funding for a summer school placement at the Inn, a mentor and a mini-pupillage. https://www.lincolnsinn.org.uk/becoming-a-barrister/funding/
- Details of the scholarships, prizes and other financial assistance available to those interested in pursuing a career as a barrister are here: https://www.lincolnsinn.org.uk/scholarships-prizes/
- The Access to the Bar Awards provide two funded weeks of work experience every summer for up to thirty undergraduates from disadvantaged backgrounds. One week is spent shadowing a judge, one week shadowing a barrister. https://www.middletemple.org.uk/becoming-barrister/access-bar-award
- The Middle Temple Open Day for Schools and Universities offers the opportunity for students to meet judges, barristers and trainees. https://www.middletemple.org.uk/joining-the-inn/access-and-outreach
- Details of the scholarships, prizes and other financial assistance available to those interested in pursuing a career as a barrister are here: https://www.middletemple.org.uk/education-training/scholarships-prizes
Mentoring and Networking
10000 Black Interns https://www.10000blackinterns.com
AllAboutLaw Diversity https://www.allaboutlaw.co.uk/diversity
The Association of Disabled Lawyers https://www.disabledlawyers.co.uk/about-us
The Association of Women Barristers https://www.womenbarristers.com
Bar None (Western Circuit) https://westerncircuit.co.uk/bar-none/
Big Voice London https://www.bvl.org.uk
The Black Barristers’ Network https://www.blackbarristersnetwork.org.uk/our-work
The Black Lawyers Directory (Legal Gateway) https://www.bldlawyers.com/the_legal_gateway.html
BME Legal https://twitter.com/BME_Legal
Bridging The Bar https://bridgingthebar.org
Centre for Women’s Justice Mentoring Scheme for Aspiring Lawyers from Black, Asian and Minoritised Backgrounds https://www.centreforwomensjustice.org.uk/mentoring-scheme
City Disabilities https://citydisabilities.org.uk
The Chancery Bar Association https://www.chba.org.uk/for-members/mentoring-scheme/
The Commercial Bar Association https://www.combar.com/news/25th-anniversary-scholarship-scheme-2020/
The Criminal Bar Association https://www.criminalbar.com/resources/equality-and-diversity/mentoring-programmes/
Disability’s Not A Bar (Podcast) https://twitter.com/DisabilityNoBar
Guru Nanak Social Mobility Scholarship https://singhbarrister.co.uk/scholarship
InterLaw Diversity Forum https://www.interlawdiversityforum.org
The Kalisher Trust https://www.unitydiversityinlaw.co.uk
Next Step Foundation https://www.nextstepeducation.org.uk/our-programme
Neurodiversity In Law http://neurodiversityinlaw.co.uk
Non-Russell Group Lawyers (NRGL) linkedin.comNRG Lawyers | LinkedIn
Queer Lawyers of Tomorrow http://www.queerlawyersoftomorrow.org
Rare Foundations: Law https://www.rarerecruitment.co.uk/foundations/law/index.html
The Social Mobility Foundation https://www.socialmobility.org.uk
Society of Asian Lawyers https://www.societyofasianlawyers.co.uk
Sutton Trust (Pathways to Law) https://www.suttontrust.com/our-programmes/pathways-to-law/
Unity Diversity in Law https://www.unitydiversityinlaw.co.uk
Urban Lawyers https://urbanlawyers.co.uk
Women In Criminal Law https://www.womenincriminallaw.com/mentoring
There are many, many more organisations and initiatives not listed above. Many barristers’ chambers have their own social mobility initiatives, offering funded work experience/mini-pupillage placements, providing mentoring schemes and bursaries, and attending local schools to speak directly to students. A number of universities also have their own mentoring and financial assistance schemes.