Neuberger calls for greater diversity in legal profession

The incoming Master of the Rolls Lord Justice David Neuberger has accused the legal industry of “wasting natural talent” by favoring candidates from more affluent backgrounds.

Lord Neuberger, who was speaking at the final of Herbert Smith’s annual student advocacy competition earlier this week, said that if the legal industry continued to recruit mainly from elite universities they would be missing out on talented students.

He said: “The legal industry has to be representative of society and those seeking a career in the profession should be judged on merit and merit alone.”

Lord Neuberger published a report in November 2007, which looked at wide-ranging measures to improve access to the bar for less well-off students. In his 220-page report he made 57 recommendations including the introduction of law to the national curriculum and a bar loan scheme.

Meanwhile, the advocacy competition he was speaking at showcased the talents of five students who had made it through to the final after submitting videos of themselves talking about the competition’s theme of elitism in the legal industry.

Marisha Singh, a law student from Nottingham University, managed to scoop the £3,000 prize money with her compelling discussion on this year’s topic – The Class Ceiling: is it breakable or there for good?”

She said: “I come from a working class background, so this is an issue that is very dear to my heart. It was a nerve wracking experience but one that I will never forget.”

It was however College of Law student Aryan Sharahi’s video that got everyone talking. If you want to know why click here.

But her victory did not come easily as she was faced with a tough judging panel, which included founding member of Herbert Smith’s Advocacy Unit Ian Gatt QC, The Times legal editor Frances Gibb, Mr Justice Sweeney, director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti, College of Law chief executive Nigel Savage and Liz Grant from IBM UK and Stonewall.

The advocacy competition was run in conjunction with The Times newspaper.