The Bar Council Recognises The “Systemic Obstacles” Faced By Ethnic Minorities in Law

I was recently at a function in the Inns of Court. Upon my arrival a waiter came up to me with a drink and said to me: “wow these are your people”. I replied, “take a closer look around”. At that point a waitress walked into the room and I said, “now there are 3 of us”.

In a report from the race working group of the Bar Council, it was found that barristers from ethnic minorities – particularly black and Asian women – are at a greater disadvantage compared to their white peers. Barbara Mills QC and Simon Regis, co-chairs of the Bar Council race working group, say that ethnic minorities are more likely to “face systemic obstacles to building and progressing a sustainable and rewarding career at the bar” due to it being harder for ethnic minorities to enter the law; ethnic minorities being paid less and being at a greater risk of bullying and harassment. [1]

It was found in the report that candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds are less likely to obtain pupillage compared to their white counterparts – even when controlling for educational attainment.

Furthermore, the Lammy Report has highlighted that ethnic minorities are less likely to be recruited as judges despite a rise in BAME candidates applying. [2]

On average, a black female junior barrister with the same level of experience as a white male junior barrister bills £18,700 a year less, with Asian women billing £16,400 a year less. At all levels, white male barristers are at the top end of the spectrum earning the highest fee income while black female barristers are at the lowest end of the spectrum earning the lowest fee income. [1]

As well as this, black and Asian women are four times more likely to experience bullying and harassment at the bar than their white male counterparts while ethnic minorities are more likely to be referred to the regulator for disciplinary actions leading to ethnic minorities feeling “hyper visible, bullies, harassed and marginalised” at work and especially at court. [1]

Additionally, there is a clear disparity in the progression of ethnic minorities and white people at the bar with 5 black female QCs, 17 black male QCs, 17 Asian female QCs, 60 Asian male QCs, 9 mixed/multiple ethnicity female QCs, and 16 male mixed/multiple ethnicity QCs. This can be compared to the 1,303 white male QCs white female QCs. [1]

To overcome this systemic gap within the bar, the report has suggested creating goals for improving diversity within a fixed timescale and annual monitoring of data. There will be an annual update on actions taken against recommendations and a comprehensive review in 2024.

Recently, there has been action taken by the Bar Council in bridging the gap such as the promotion of Bar-based initiatives on race including Black History Month, making public statements and taking action to assist barristers who have reported experiences of racism to the council, and signing up as a support of the Black Talent Charter – an organisation which calls for meaningful action to redress the balance for black professionals in the workplace. [3]

The Bar Council has also shown its support for the 10,000 Black Interns initiative which provides paid internships for young black people at different chambers and organisations to develop their skills and build their professional network. [3]

In conclusion, I have heard much about equality, diversity and change since I started as a baby barrister. Little delivered. There is little point in a nash of one’s teeth that so little progress has been made in the law. No one will be surprised by that. So, what now? What we need to do is spend a short period of reflection and analysis to see why the past 25 years have been so slow to bring real change. Thereafter, we re-group renewed with better ideas than those of our predecessors and do so in an environment where we must now be unfettered from our past. It is time for a new and younger generation to lead from the front and to be free of any type of legacy intellectuals.

As for me, plenty of chat but what did Lawrence Power do to deliver change?

This; I rejected the old guard and created my own chambers (law firm) to bring modernity to barristers.[4] Excellence was the starting point, I do not deny that, but that excellence was welcomed from every walk of life. My discovery was that a merit only system intrinsically delivered equality and diversity.

The door is open for others to get together and set up and operate in a new genuinely inclusionary way.




[4] Footnote to myself, this was a tad naive and stupid at such a wee tender age and so little experience. Oh, and lest you forget it cost a small fortune too. Regrets? – Footnote Sinatra.

© 2021 Lawrence Power @ Whitestone Chambers

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