Bar Council Annual Report 2016-17

Aim 5: Introduction overview

Securing and promoting the work of the Bar and its role in society

Aim 5: Improve equality, diversity &
social mobility

Introduction: Gender, diversity and social mobility at the Bar


Women are now called to the Bar in equal proportion to men, but women between 10-15 years’ call are leaving the profession in far greater numbers. Women are also more likely to work in publicly funded areas of practice which are notoriously poorly remunerated. In addition, these practice areas have inflexible court sitting hours, which creates a particular challenge for those with family and caring responsibilities. Though there are many male practitioners with such responsibilities, the current position is that primary carers are overwhelmingly women.

Women’s retention impacts adversely on their progression. Only around 14% of QCs are women and they are under-represented in the senior judiciary.


The Bar is on track for the number of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) barristers to be proportionate to the rest of the population of England & Wales, but there continues to be a disparity between the total percentage of BME barristers across the profession (12.2%), and the percentage of BME QCs (6.4%). This suggests an issue in relation to the progression of BME practitioners at the Bar.[1]

Social Mobility

The proportion of barristers who attended fee paying schools is 44%, compared with only 7% of the population. This disparity is less pronounced in barristers under the age of 30, indicating that a state school education is much less of a barrier than it used to be. However, there is still a need for greater socio-economic diversity at the Bar if it is to reflect the communities it serves and offer opportunity to talented individuals irrespective of background.

“Although the position is changing for the better, women still account for a very small number of members of the senior judiciary, and they make up only 13% of all QCs. The judiciary and the legal profession from which it is drawn should reflect the communities they seek to serve, and that is why the Bar Council is committed to doing all it can to support women at the Bar at all stages in their professional careers at the Bar. We need to aim for a profession of all, and for all."

- Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC

Promoting equality, diversity and social mobility

Throughout 2016-17, the Bar Council has continued to promote greater equality and diversity and social mobility in the profession through the work of the Equality, Diversity and Social Mobility (EDSM) Committee and dedicated Policy team staff.

This work includes programmes addressing:

  • Access: To widen access, particularly to those from under-represented groups including lower socioeconomic backgrounds
  • Retention: To improve retention, particularly of women and those with a disability (including mental health), and
  • Progression: To support progression, of under-represented groups (particularly of women and ethnic minorities)

Click on the links below to find out more about the Bar Council's work to promote equality, diversity and social mobility in the profession.

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The Bar Council’s Bar Mentoring Service is made up of three different mentoring schemes designed to meet different needs within the profession.

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Equality and diversity training

In 2016-17, the Bar Council continued to offer a range of training sessions for chambers on equality and diversity including 11 ‘Introduction to E&D’ training sessions, five bespoke sessions for chambers, five ‘Advanced E&D’ courses, and one bespoke course in Nottingham at the request of a Circuit based chambers.

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Equality and diversity helpline         




The Bar Council continues to offer a confidential equality and diversity helpline to all pupils, members of the Bar, and chambers staff. The line provides practical support and guidance for barristers and chambers facing equality and diversity challenges.

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Supporting family carers  

In 2016-17, the Bar Council continued to push for more equal family policies at the Bar with the aim of supporting barristers with caring responsibilities, and to retain more women in the profession.

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Women at the Bar

In addition to seminars, retention and progression mentoring, and policy work on parental leave, in 2016-17, the Bar Council also . . .

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Judicial diversity

It has long been self-evident that gender equality and ethnic diversity in the judiciary need to be improved if it is to reflect the communities it serves.

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Bar Mock Trials

The Bar Council has continued to sponsor the Citizenship Foundation’s Bar Mock Trials Competition. The 25th annual Bar Mock Trials competition took place at the Old Bailey in April 2016, attended by then Chair of the Bar Chantal Aimée-Doerries QC.

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Bar Placement Week    



Bar Placement Week is an award-winning programme that places sixth form students from under-represented backgrounds with practising barristers, affording them the opportunity to make contacts in the profession and gain first-hand insight into life at the Bar.

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Law Fairs

As part of the Bar Council’s social mobility and outreach work, the Bar Council attended 13 law fairs throughout 2016-17 in partnership with the Inns of Court and the Commercial Bar Association (COMBAR).

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Career Days

In 2016-17, the Bar Council produced two careers days in Cardiff and Manchester, for sixth formers considering a career at the Bar. The Bar Council liaised with schools’ outreach officers to target students from less advantaged and diverse backgrounds.

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