The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the Bar at large however, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic barristers (‘BAME’) are doubly hit, being more likely to practice in publicly funded work, an area that is typically less well remunerated and directly impacted by the underfunding of the justice system. In addition, BAME barristers are also likely to face greater financial pressure, being a group who are more likely to be from a less advantageous social-economic background and thus less likely to have resources to fall back on. These factors serve only to increase the risk of BAME barristers’ premature exodus from the Bar.
This situation is particularly concerning in relation to black practitioners who are already underrepresented at the Bar both at junior and senior levels.
As at June 2020, of the 16,626 practising barristers in England and Wales, only 597 were from a Black/Black British or Mixed Black ethnic group. Of the 597 barristers, only 12 practiced in the East Midlands.
Of the 1093 Heads of Chambers in England and Wales, only 76 were of Black/Black British or Mixed Black origin.
Only 1.1% of barristers taking silk were from a Black/Black British ethnic group. 91.5% of those taking silk were from a white ethnic group.
These statistics show that in addition to the problem of black barristers being under-represented, there also appears to be an issue with the career progression of black barristers.
The data further indicates that:
- A disproportionate number of the bar (17%) attended a UK Independent school, an institution less likely to be attended by those from BAME backgrounds.
- BME* students are roughly half as likely to obtain pupillage as white graduates with similar prior educational attainment.
- BME students score lower on average than the equivalent white student on the BPTC.
- BAME barristers are more likely to experience bullying, discrimination and harassment than white barristers: 34% v 19%.
- Female BAME barristers are the lowest earning group and white male barristers are the highest earning group.
There are therefore problems for black practitioners at every stage of the profession.
It is clear that there is much to be done to achieve a more diverse legal profession. After all, how can we expect the public to trust a system that is not representative of the people that it serves?
It is for these reasons that our aims are:
- To improve the numbers of black people entering and remaining in the legal profession.
- To improve the numbers of black practitioners taking silk and joining the bench.
- To support and unite all black legal practitioners.
- To promote a positive culture of inclusivity within the legal profession.
We will strive to achieve our aims through collaborative working with The Forum and other organisations affiliated with the Bar, through the promotion of programmes and initiatives established by our allied networks and through the development and implementation of schemes and events in the East Midlands and surrounding regions.
For upcoming and ongoing events please visit our Events page.
*‘BME’ is the terminology used in the relevant research paper