In early 2017, the Bar Representation Committee formed a sub-committee to promote social mobility within Lincoln’s Inn. One of its initiatives has been to gather together testimonials from members of the Inn who come from disadvantaged or state school backgrounds, or who have overcome particular adversity, and have succeeded in pursuing a career at the Bar. We are extremely grateful to The Rt Hon Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury for his incisive and inspiring introduction to what follows.
"In 2007, I chaired a Bar Council working party which had been asked to report on how to improve access to the bar. In the introduction to our report, I wrote “The Bar can only flourish and retain public confidence if it is a diverse and inclusive profession”. Ten years later, that remains as true as it was then. When I embarked on the investigation which led to the report, I think that many members of the working party assumed that the main areas on which we should concentrate would be gender and ethnicity. However, we all quickly came to appreciate that, although there was (and remains) much to be done in terms of career progression at the bar for women and BAME barristers, by far the most significant group which was heavily under-represented among barristers was that of people who came from a less privileged background, socially, economically and educationally.
Since I started practice as a barrister more than forty years ago, I think that things have a got a little better on that front. That improvement is at least partly thanks to various social mobility initiatives, such as the working party report and its implementation by the Inns and Bar Council, aimed at encouraging people who might otherwise feel that their background disqualifies them from becoming barristers. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that, at all levels, the Bar remains very largely populated by those from more privileged backgrounds.
It is easy to understand why this is so, but that is no excuse for all concerned about the barristers profession doing their best to improve things. As a profession devoted to justice and to excellence, and with an important public role in supporting the rule of law, the Bar must do its best to improve diversity in its ranks. This is no more true than in relation to potential members from non-conventional backgrounds, be it people from underprivileged homes and schools, graduates of non-Russell Group universities (as well as more mature entrants).
Having visited a fair number of schools and universities, and having talked to many students and teachers, it is clear to me that one of the best ways of conveying the message that the Bar is open to everyone irrespective of economic, social or educational background, is through talks and written statements from those from such backgrounds who have succeeded in becoming barristers - in other words, those who have overcome the apparent barriers which some believe to exist.
I therefore unreservedly welcome the publication of these testimonials from barristers with non-conventional backgrounds. They make for impressive and at times moving reading in themselves, as well, I hope, as acting as inspirations to those who might like to follow in the footsteps of such barristers, but might otherwise lack the confidence to do so.
Lincoln’s Inn Bar Representation Committee is to be congratulated for organising and publishing these testimonials and I am very honoured to have been asked to provide an introduction to their publication.”
The Rt Hon Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury Treasurer 2017