The Council of the Inns of Court welcomes the Bar Standards Board’s call to ensure a level playing field in training for the Bar

The Council of the Inns of Court

The Council of the Inns of Court notes the two reports published today by the Bar Standards Board and welcomes their concern to eliminate any possible unfairness in the training of aspiring barristers.

The Council of the Inns of Court director James Wakefield says: “The Inns are unwavering in their belief that the rule of law is best served by attracting the most able to the Bar, whatever their background. We are continually developing ways to help people join the profession but there is no room for complacency. We will study the BSB reports closely to identify areas where we could do more, support the further research that will be needed and do everything necessary to engender confidence that access is fair.”

The Inns are pleased that the BSB reports concluded that “the value of the Inns of Court and the qualifying sessions is clear” as these are designed to ensure that students gain the knowledge and skills they need to be successful barristers. Although the report’s findings of no gender or disability bias against applicants to the Bar either on the Bar course or in obtaining pupillage are very welcome, we recognise that there is work to do in addressing outcomes in relation to ethnic diversity.

The Council points out that the Inns continually invest in outreach and education programmes. Practitioners give many thousands of hours pro bono to encourage people to consider a career at the Bar and to support them throughout their careers. Among a raft of measures already in place, the Inns award over £5 million a year in scholarships, mostly means tested; provide access, support and mentoring schemes and give financial support for more than 40 pupillages at mainly publicly-funded chambers. They also support many university-based events, law fairs, and presentations; provide support for careers advisors, and give substantial financial support for the Bar Council’s outreach work.

The Inns have been concerned about the cost and risk for those undertaking the Bar Professional Training Course. With that in mind they have devised a proposal for a new two-part approach with law school attendance only compulsory for the second half. If approved, they hope this will encourage access and diversity by giving students the choice of another route to the Bar which will reduce both cost and risk.

“The Inns have long recognised the challenges faced by those from non-traditional backgrounds entering the profession. We fully support the BSB’s desire to maintain a strong, independent and diverse profession in the public interest and will continue to work with all concerned to ensure that the best talent has a clear path into the profession,” says Mr Wakefield.

For further information please contact:

James Wakefield
The Council of the Inns of Court
0207 822 0761

Note to editors

About The Council of the Inns of Court

The Council of the Inns of Court exists to advance education in the sound administration of the law, including by promoting high standards of advocacy and enforcing professional standards of conduct. COIC supports the work of the four Inns of Court (Lincoln’s Inn, Inner Temple, Middle Temple and Gray’s Inn).

Inner Temple Q&A

Q. The Bar has long been considered an elite profession. Why is it taking so long to change this?
A. The Inner Temple firmly believes that the rule of law is best served by attracting the most able to the Bar, regardless of background. We have been working for the past 10 years to improve access to the profession for all talented individuals. The raft of measures in place and in our five year plan to attract bright applicants from non-traditional backgrounds includes reaching out to schools and universities, many hours of pro bono time on visits, talks and advice.

We have a highly regarded Pegasus Access and Support Scheme which provides 59 places for students from under-represented backgrounds to find and fund work experience in over 70 Chambers. The scheme also provides professional skills training to help support students into the profession.

We are working hard continually to improve and enhance these initiatives.

Q. How many Bar Professional Training Course scholarships were awarded in 2017?
A. 101

Q. How do people apply?
A. Students apply online. The information about scholarships is sent to every law school in England and Wales. The Inner Temple sends the information to a mailing list of over 1,000 people and promotes it through online channels and Bar Society contacts.

Q. How do people find out about the access programmes that are available? Who is eligible?
A. The Inner Temple informs all careers services and law schools at each university in England and Wales. The Inner Temple promotes the scheme through its website, social media and mailing list. Bar and Law Societies are also informed about the programmes the Inn has available.

Applicants from the Inner Temple access programmes need to be or have studied at a UK State School and meet one of the following criteria:

  • Parental experience of higher education: The candidate is the first generation to access higher education in their family;
  • Maintenance: While at school, the candidate’s parents were in receipt of either income support or housing benefits or they themselves are in receipt of income or housing benefits;
  • FSM: whether the candidate at some point received Free School Meals;
  • Care Leavers: The candidate was in care at any point in their schooling. A care leaver is someone who has been in the care of the Local Authority for a period of 13 weeks or more spanning their 16th birthday;
  • School Area: Preference is given to those students who have attended schools with a low attainment and progression to higher education.

Q. Why are only 5% of new entrants disabled, when the percentage in the community as a whole is much higher?
A. The BSB report found no disability bias. £15,000 is available in total annually to assist Bar Professional Training Course students or pupils of the Inner Temple who are affected by disabilities; who demonstrate financial need; and who can show that they have reasonable prospects of being called to the Bar.

Q. How are you going to attract more applicants from the BME community?
A. We are working hard to attract more talented people from the BME community. Our five year plan includes a number of initiatives:

  • Developing a range of resources and opportunities for universities that would not traditionally engage with the Bar;
  • Developing advice, guidance and information events and resources for non-traditional groups that are currently under-represented in the Inner Temple;
  • Continuing to improve the successful PASS scheme for high-achieving students and Chambers. PASS is our leading programme designed to support aspiring barristers from under-represented groups within the Inn’s current membership;
  • Developing workshops for barristers to share best practice on access issues;
  • Working closely with Black Lawyers’ directory and Urban Lawyers to ensure a joined up approach to our access programmes. 

Q What are you doing to encourage individual chambers to support your initiatives in attracting applicants from the BME community?
A. The Inner Temple works with over 70 Chambers to deliver the Pegasus Access and Support Scheme and will continue to grow the number of Chambers supporting the scheme.