Oxbridge-educated bar entrants rise as the profession’s morale takes a tumble

Nearly half of all new entrants to the bar were Oxbridge-educated, according to a Bar Standards Board (BSB) report entitled Barristers’ Working Lives.

Of those of one to three years’ call, 45 per cent attended either Oxford or Cambridge. This contrasts with the rest of the bar, of whom 31 per cent attended an Oxbridge institution. Another 39 per cent of all barristers attended a Russell Group university, with 30 per cent graduating from a non-Russell Group or Oxbridge place of study.

The report also shed light on how many barristers attended state school. Of the whole bar, 56 per cent attended a state school, with 65 per cent of female barristers and 67 per cent of BME barristers doing so.

The recent Bar Barometer report by the Bar Council and BSB showed that just 35 per cent of first-six pupils attended a fee-paying secondary school in 2011/12, while in 2010/11, the figure was 40 per cent.

Nationwide, around half a million, or 7 per cent, of school children attend a fee-paying school. Although the bar average is still above that of the national average, the gap appears to be closing.

The report focused on morale among the profession, measuring their attitudes to their work. Broadly, it found that the most in the profession find their work interesting (88 per cent) and are proud to belong to it (87 per cent) but that barristers are also becoming more stressed and less happy both with their earnings and their career prospects.

Just 42 per cent of barristers believe that they are fairly paid for their work, while 29 per cent said that they do not find their work stressful. Around one-third (35 per cent) are happy with their earnings and 40 per cent are content with their career progression prospects.

Barristers who do predominantly publicly-funded work are – unsurprisingly given recent legal aid cuts – less happy than those who do no rely on the public purse.

Of those barristers whose publicly-funded work makes up 90 per cent or more of their workload, just 17 per cent felt they had good opportunities for career progression, while a paltry 9 per cent felt that they were fairly paid for their level of expertise.

Overall, 24 per cent of this group felt they were satisfied with their job, compared to 69 per cent of all barristers.

See also