Diversity at the bar of England and Wales

May 21, 2022
BSB Annual Report

The Bar Standards Board’s (BSB)  annual report on Diversity at the Bar shows that the profession became increasingly diverse in 2021. However, on a closer look, the Bar is still a long way from being representative of the wider UK population. The biggest discrepancies are in relation to the Criminal Bar which is the furthest away from representing the UK population. At the same time, the report highlights that the highest level of lack of representation occurs at the Queen’s Counsel (QC) level. In this respect, the Criminal Bar Association stated that the poor legal aid payments received by criminal barristers deter a more diverse pool of barristers from going down the criminal law path.

Gender

The report states that the proportion of female QCs increased from 16.8% to 17.9%. Also, the BSB statistics indicate that there are more females training to become barristers as 56.6% of the pupil barristers were women in 2021.

However, only 38.8 % of criminal barristers were women compared to 50.2% of the UK population, aspect which reiterates the lack of representation at the Criminal Bar.

Ethnicity

In terms of ethnicity, the Bar is relatively diverse and mirrors the UK wider population. In this regard, 86% of people in the UK are from a white background, 7.5% are Asian, 3.3 are Black and 2.2 are from a mixed background. As for the Bar figures, 78.3% of barristers are white, 7.1 % are from an Asian background, 3 % are Black and 3.3% are mixed.

The percentage of practising barristers from ethnic minority backgrounds increased by 0.5% in 2021. Nevertheless, at QC level, the Bar is still lagging, as 9.6% of barristers from ethnic minority groups are QCs compared to 15.1% non-QC barristers who are from an ethnic minority background.

Schools

Of particular concern is the high number of barristers educated in the private school system. 19.3 % of the barristers that participated in the report received private education between the ages 11 and 18, compared to only 7% of the UK population. Nonetheless, 40% of the barristers that participated in the study refused to give information as to their educational background. Therefore, the statistics are not conclusive. On a more positive note, it is noteworthy that the percentage of privately educated barristers dropped from 39.6%, which is the figure registered in 2015, to 36.9% in 2021.

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