From Living on the Streets to a Career at the Bar

“I was told in no uncertain terms not to set my ambitions too high…"

Ten new barristers this week join the Bar Council’s award-winning social mobility campaign #IAmTheBar as Social Mobility Advocates, bringing the group up to 21.

These new campaign representatives will share their own personal stories of coming from underprivileged beginnings to ranks of the barristers’ profession. Among the stories are those that arrived as refugees, without speaking a word of English, those that have been homeless or lived in extreme poverty, those that have experienced drastic family upheaval in early life, and those that were told quite simply that “black boys from the ends don’t make barristers.”

The stories are being revealed on the Bar Council’s Twitter this week, and the new Advocates are:

Colin Bourne

Gemma de Cordova

Jesse Cook

Jonathan Lennon

Kalsoom Maqsood

Mary Prior QC

Rabah Kherbane

Rehana Popal

Simao Paxi-Cato

Zoe Chapman

Richard Atkins QC, Chair of the Bar, said: “There is no standard blueprint of a barrister, members of the Bar come from all walks of life. We are fortunate to have members of the Bar who, from their own experiences, provide inspiration to future barristers through the ‘I am the Bar’ campaign. There is a clear drive at the Bar to ensure social mobility is a reality within the profession and to encourage those who might in the past have thought a career at the Bar was not for them to consider becoming a barrister. This new cohort of social mobility advocates builds on that momentum.”

The Bar Council launched the ‘I am the Bar’ campaign in Summer 2018, to profile the experiences of those who have succeeded at the Bar from under-represented backgrounds, and raise the profile of social mobility, thus supporting fair access to the Bar. The campaign also highlights efforts made to improve diversity within the Bar by drawing together profession-wide social mobility initiatives. The #IAmTheBar hashtag has gone viral on Twitter, with barristers continuing to share their stories of coming to the Bar, a year after the campaign’s initial launch.

As acknowledged by the Bar Standards Board’s Differential Attainment action plan, individuals from low socio-economic backgrounds need to see themselves in their chosen profession, in the form of role models from similar backgrounds. Bar Council initiatives, such as ‘I am the Bar’, Bar Placement Week and the Bar Council sponsored Bar Mock Trials competition look to provide those role models and give those from ‘less traditional’ backgrounds an insight into life at the Bar.

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