The Bar Council’s flagship social mobility initiative, Bar Placement Week, will this week mark 10 years of giving sixth form students from non-traditional backgrounds the opportunity to spend a week experiencing life as a barrister. The 10 year anniversary of the scheme comes as the Bar Council launches a new social mobility campaign online, entitled ‘I am the Bar’, which aims to encourage more people with the necessary talent and potential to pursue a career at the Bar, irrespective of their socio-economic background.
Bar Placement Week has been pairing talented sixth form students from non-traditional backgrounds with practising barristers in London for 10 years. In 2014, the programme won a Halsbury Legal Award and was expanded to give opportunities to students in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham and Bristol.
Students spend three days shadowing their barrister in chambers and in court. On the final day of the scheme, students attend talks by barristers and/or judges, and receive advocacy training from the Inns of Court College of Advocacy. Prizes are awarded for the best student advocates by a senior member of the Bar.
Andrew Walker QC, Chair of the Bar, said: “There is still a perception that to join the Bar you have to come from a wealthy or privileged background. The 10th anniversary of Bar Placement Week highlights our long-term commitment to challenging that misconception, and to reaching out widely with the aim of inspiring students from all backgrounds to consider a career at the Bar. The Bar wants and needs to attract the best talent from across the country, irrespective of socio-economic background, and to do so we need to break down barriers to aspiration and to the attainment of students’ full potential. One of the best ways of doing this is to give promising students first-hand experience of the life of a barrister. Bar Placement Week does this, and even if not all participants go on to consider becoming barristers, the week gives them a glimpse into the vital role barristers play in the administration of justice – an insight that we hope the students will all carry with them into their adult lives.
“Bar Placement Week has been a success for the Bar and, I believe, for the many talented students who have taken part over the last decade, but we want to build on it and show more students and others that they really can aspire to become a barrister. The ‘I am the Bar’ campaign is designed to show what individuals from all backgrounds can achieve, to highlight the support and encouragement available, and to explain just how many different paths have been followed by today’s barristers, leading to highly successful careers at the Bar of England and Wales.”
Lord Neuberger, the immediate past President of the Supreme Court, whose 2007 inquiry into background of entrants to the Bar prompted the Bar Council to launch Bar Placement Week, said: “The Bar is a profession dedicated to excellence and to justice. That dedication should not be limited to individual commitment on the part of every practising barrister. It is just as important that it extends to the recruitment of future barristers, and that means enabling people with potential, irrespective of background, ethnic group or gender, to have a real opportunity of considering a career at the Bar. Bar Placement Week performs just such a role, by enabling young people to spend a few days with an experienced practitioner and to see what being a barrister actually involves.”
(Source: The Bar Council)