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The Bar must galvanise itself to change

Schemes to assist disadvantaged students in obtaining pupillages and better data-gathering processes are the only way for the Bar to improve diversity and avoid marginalisation, writes Professor John Flood

23 February 2016

The UK is a diverse and multicultural society, but its institutions, especially the elite ones, frequently fail to reflect that. Even Oxford University is being criticised by the prime minister for being unsuccessful in raising the proportion of minority and lower socio-economic students. One could ask why, in a competitive, neo-liberal society, we are not seeing the meritocratic rewards of competition. Although neither the left nor the right is a sponsor of equality of outcome, both sides advocate equality of opportunity. And this is where our institutions lack credibility when they claim to be repairing past inequities.

The Bar of England and Wales has always portrayed itself as a key supporter of meritocracy, the ultimate bootstrapping group of individual professionals. There are more than 16,300 barristers in England and Wales, most practising in chambers which are cost-sharing but not fee-sharing enterprises. This enables...

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