Social mobility - working with students
One of the Bar Council’s key objectives when working with students is to improve social mobility and promote the Bar as a profession based on merit for all, of all, regardless of background.
It is important that all students – especially those without personal or family connections to the Bar or the legal profession – are supported so they are clear at an early stage about what they need to do to prepare themselves for the highly competitive process of becoming a barrister.
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.
The Career Days give students the opportunity to learn first-hand from practising barristers about life at the Bar and to hear from university academics about what to expect from a law degree and how to prepare a strong application. Students undertake a practical exercise based on a plea in mitigation, to give them a flavour for the legal issues and tasks barristers undertake. They also have the chance to talk with barristers about how to negotiate pathways to the profession. Further careers days are planned for 2017-18, including one in London.
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). The majority of the universities attended have a high rate of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
Law fairs are an excellent opportunity to communicate the challenges and rewards of a career at the Bar to a diverse range of students and to demystify what it means to be a barrister for those who may know little about the profession. The fairs give individual students from low-participation backgrounds the chance to talk with practicing barristers and representatives of the Bar, who can help them to plot their route in to the profession and provide information on the necessary qualifications and funding options.
The Universities attended in 2016-17 were:
- City University London
- UEA Norwich
- University of Bristol
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.
Having been extended in 2015/16 to cover Liverpool and Bristol, Bar Placement week also engages students from London, Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham. This year, for the first time, students from Bristol and Liverpool took part in the placement week in London In addition to completing work experience in chambers, students attended a talk by a panel of barristers at Middle Temple, visited the Supreme Court or Old Bailey and took part in an advocacy training session run by the Advocacy Training Council at Gray’s Inn.
Following a review in 2016, the Bar Council now works with the Sutton Trust in addition to its original partner, the Social Mobility Foundation, so that the scheme benefits a greater number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. At the same time, and following feedback from Chambers, the selection criteria was changed to better target students with a genuine interest in learning more about a career at the Bar, with 80 students taking part in 2016-17 compared with 90 in the previous reporting year.
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.
Each year, over 2,000 state-educated students aged between 15 and 18 years old work in teams to defend and prosecute two mock criminal cases. Students take on the roles of barristers, witnesses, court staff and jurors and their performances are assessed by real judges and senior practising barristers. In preparation for the competition, each team is mentored by a practising barrister or advocate.
Since the competition began, the Bar Mock Trials have reached over 40,000 young people with voluntary support from over 400 barristers or advocates and 90 judges each year, from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“For many students, this mock trial competition is their first, positive contact with the legal system that governs their lives. The competition helps students to understand the purpose of law and the impact it has on people and helps to make the justice system relevant to them.”
– Tom Franklin, CEO, The Citizenship Foundation
“One student told me that the Bar Mock Trials Competition was the first time she had seen people expressing disagreement without shouting at each other. Students learn vital skills by taking part in the competition that often have nothing to do with the law.”
- Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, Chair of the Bar 2016
This year’s Bar Council Pupillage Fair attracted over 50 exhibitors, including SBAs, universities and chambers, and was attended by over 600 students. Free to students, the Pupillage Fair remains the most popular event for students preparing to apply for pupillage and for chambers looking to meet a diverse range of applicants.
Contact and further information
The Bar Council
289-293 High Holborn