Bar social mobility week expands nationally

The annual Bar Council placement week has expanded to chambers in Birmingham in its sixth year.

The scheme takes students who are expected to achieve at least ABB at A level, attend a school with a higher than average take up of free school meals and would be the first people in their family to attend university.

Most people on the scheme are from ethnic backgrounds and many have English as their second language. 

For its first five years, the scheme was run solely in London. Its expansion to Birmingham coincides with its biggest intake to date. In London, 74 students will visit local barristers’ chambers where they will shadow a practising barrister in their work. In Birmingham, 12 students will visit chambers. The city is home to one of the largest sets in the country by barrister numbers, with No 5 home to 238 barristers.

Maura McGowan QC, chairman of the bar, said that expanding into cities other than London and Birmingham was on the horizon and that the bar had always intended to launch the scheme outside of the capital, once it was established.

Participants will spend time on a one-to-one basis with barristers for every day of their placement, although they may not spend an entire week with one barrister but instead switch between cases and tenants.

She added: “I think this is a fantastic scheme – social mobility is something that all the professions need to concentrate on more. This is a way of giving very bright children who don’t have the most advantaged backgrounds an introduction to the profession. It’s getting them to raise their sights.”

The scheme has been very successful so far. Statistics from the Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) show that 53 per cent of previous participants have gone on to study at a Russell Group university and that 66 per cent are studying law. Nine out of ten previous candidates were reported as being of the calibre that the barristers they were shadowing would look to employ.

The London placement week is run in conjunction with the SMF initiative while the Birmingham week is a Bar Council initiative with help from Aim Higher West Midlands.