During his inaugural speech to the Bar Council, Bean said he was “actively exploring” ways for poorer students to gain access to the bar. “When I was called to the bar there were still grants, at least from some local authorities, for the Bar Finals year,” he said. “Now there is no public funding.”
Volunteers from the Young Barristers Committee have also been visiting universities in the North East and South East of England in an attempt to recruit students from a wider range of socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds.
Samuel Waritay of Arden Chambers said that the pilot University Visits Scheme aimed to inform students about “real life at the bar” and was a reflection of changing attitudes within the profession.
He added: “There's been a reticence from non-traditional universities to approach the bar. The idea is that, even if only one student out of 30 actually comes to the bar as a result, at least they'll have a pretty good idea of what they'll be facing and can prepare for it.”
According to Bean, the bar's long-term prospects as a “representative profession” could be at risk unless measures are taken to ensure that new pupils “really are the best and the brightest and are not simply those who can afford it”.