“The commercial bar has an image problem”: Essex Court joins forces with the Social Mobility Foundation

Essex Court Chambers is entering into a partnership with the Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) to increase career opportunities for students from less privileged backgrounds.

Over the next few months, the Lincoln’s Inn set will host workshops on mooting and making a good impression, as well as running regular sessions on improving analytical, reasoning and advocacy skills.

The chambers has supported the Bar Council/SMF placement week in previous years but this is the first time that it has extended its support beyond the standard requirement.

Pupillage head Claire Blanchard QC said: “The commercial bar has an image problem – it is perceived as being populated by a very narrow range of people and this partnership is one of the ways in which we want to work to bust that myth.

“It is true that we have a concentration of Oxford and Cambridge graduates at chambers. It is a self-perpetuating issue because potential applicants look at the website and think they don’t have a chance if they don’t come from Oxbridge.”

She added: “It would be wrong to be under the impression that every barrister here went to private school – they did not – you can start with me. And I went to Liverpool Polytechnic. When we say we’re a meritocracy, we mean it.”

Blanchard went on to explain that Essex Court was particularly interested in SMF due to its academic requirements. The foundation only recruits students who are predicted at least ABB at A-level and are either in the first generation of their family to attend university or receiving free school meals.

Over half (53 per cent) of SMF students who attended university in the last seven years attended a Russell Group institution. A huge 93 per cent of its students said they would have been unable to complete an internship at the organisation they were placed at without the foundation’s help.

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