In his 2007 report on Entry to the Bar, Lord Neuberger stated that ‘the Bar can only flourish and retain public confidence if it is a diverse and inclusive profession.’ His report went on to make a series of recommendations which aimed ‘to ensure that, as far as possible, the Bar selects and is seen to select, the best entrants from all backgrounds regardless of social background, economic circumstances, educational advantages, ethnicity, gender, disability status, sexual orientation, age, religion or belief.’
The 2007 Neuberger Report acknowledged the positive steps taken by the Bar Council and the Inns of Court over many years to improve access to the Bar through their links with undergraduates and the provision of generous scholarships.
The importance of the Inns’ work in this area was further highlighted with the release of the Milburn Report in 2009. This report, emanating from the Government’s ‘Panel for Fair Access to the Professions’, noted that there are a significant number of able students who might not be entering professional careers on account of factors other than academic performance or intellectual capability. Both the Bar Standards Board and the Legal Services Board have highlighted the importance of equality and diversity within the Bar, and recent consultations have again prompted consideration of the Bar’s recruitment procedures. Meanwhile, the Inns of Court remain committed to fair access and to continuing their efforts in this area.
Middle Temple’s Work with Schools
Middle Temple’s focus on opening access to the profession begins with school students.
The Inns and the Bar Council are financial co-sponsors of the Bar Mock Trial competition an annual event which is run by the Citizenship Foundation and which was first run in 1991. Over 2,500 students from 175 non-fee paying schools and Further Education colleges across the UK take part. Schools register their interest and applicants are chosen from specific catchment zones. Schools that have not previously participated in the competition are given priority.
Middle Temple’s Open Day
Middle Temple hosts an annual Open Day for school students (also open to undergraduates), which provides information about careers at the Bar and gives students the opportunity to hear directly from practitioners. School groups are also welcomed on an ad hoc basis to hear about work at the Bar.
All four of the Inns have developed outreach activities to engage more closely with schools and universities in order to widen access to the profession. Together with the other Inns, Middle Temple provides information about careers at the Bar - and the forms of financial assistance available - across a very broad spectrum of education, from early secondary school-age children to university undergraduates.
Middle Temple’s Work with Universities
Middle Temple, along with the other Inns, is represented through the Bar Council at the vast majority of university law fairs in England and Wales. It has established links with numerous Law and Bar Societies at a wide range of universities. This enables it to develop relationships with those societies and regional Bar representatives so that practising barristers can participate in the careers events that those institutions hold throughout the year, providing guidance about the profession and how to seek to access it.
Middle Temple also has excellent links with academia through its Academic Benchers and Fellows from a range of universities. Academic Benchers and Fellows contribute to the Inn’s educational programmes and provide up-to-date information about the Bar to students at their respective institutions.
The Inns of Court jointly run an annual careers day to which careers advisers at each institution offering a qualifying law degree are invited, giving them the opportunity to hear from, and talk to, members of the Bar.
Middle Temple also encourages visits from university students throughout the year, organises university presentations in different parts of the country and arranges regional receptions in conjunction with local barristers and/or members of the Inn.
Middle Temple’s Access to the Bar Awards
Middle Temple has established its Middle Temple Access to the Bar Award, which involves one week’s marshalling and one week’s mini-pupillage for undergraduates from disadvantaged backgrounds, providing them with funding for those two weeks. University departments are invited to nominate one candidate each, with about a dozen being shortlisted for interview by the Inn. The scheme will provide for eight placements per year in future.
Middle Temple also participates in the Social Mobility Foundation’s work to assist access to the Bar. The programme works with disadvantaged sixth-formers to show them the benefits and challenges involved in a career at the Bar and how to go about joining the profession. It is important that young people know the requirements for entry and the opportunities open to them to gain scholarships once they have embarked on their qualifying law degree or a post-graduate diploma in law.
Middle Temple’s Funding and Scholarships
Middle Temple provides over £1 million per year in support of its core purpose to promote diversity and access to the Bar. Together with the other Inns and Circuits, it continues to play a significant role in developing inclusivity within the profession by providing a wide range of financial aid. Training to become a barrister is expensive, but the Inns of Court work hard to support talented, aspiring barristers who might otherwise find the cost prohibitive. Overall, the Inns of Court award well over £4 million in scholarships every year. Whilst all scholarships are granted on merit, financial need is usually taken into account in determining the amounts to be awarded. For further information, two relevant links are: