The Bar Council, which represents all barristers in England and Wales, has produced new guidance for the profession on race inequality, at the start of Black History Month.
The new guides explain the key challenges in terms of race equality at the Bar, particularly around pupillage, bullying and general culture, reflecting, for instance, the fact that calls to Bar Council helplines about bullying are disproportionately made by Black women. Callers experienced shouting, not listening, avoiding eye contact and being excluded by others talking only to opponents.
The guides also highlight that students and barristers from ethnic minority backgrounds regularly report they are made to feel uncomfortable and experience micro-aggressions in the workplace and at social events (such as questions like ‘where are you from?’. There is also a lack of visible role models).
The Bar Council’s recommendations include ensuring senior members of the profession commit to zero tolerance of discrimination, harassment and bullying across the Bar, and for training in this area to be prioritised and mandatory for everyone.
Following an onslaught of enquiries from the profession to the Bar Council, the new guides include a framework for chambers and others to make constructive changes and outline how they can lawfully use positive action measures.
Chair of the Bar, Amanda Pinto QC, said: “Although Black History Month in many ways looks back, it is a particularly pertinent time for us all to look forward, to turn words into action and shape a new history for Black people in the legal profession. The Bar Council guidance aims to help people do just that, at every level of the profession – when recruiting pupils into chambers, when addressing the culture of the Bar, right through to supporting Black barristers to become QCs and judges."
Co-Chairs of the Bar Council’s Race Working Group, Barbara Mills QC and Simon Regis said: “Our profession can do better and is clearly willing to address these disadvantages. But change cannot happen unless that willingness translates into positive steps. We hope these guides, which are just the first of many projects our Race Working Group has helped develop, will enable all of us at the Bar to play our part in shaping the Bar we want to see.”
Find the guides here:
- Taking Action on Race framework
- Positive Action: comprehensive/long guide
- Positive Action: short guide – to be read with comprehensive (long) guide
Notes to editors
1. Race at the Bar
- 1.1% of QCs are from a Black/Black British background, according to BSB statistics. The percentage of the overall population that identifies with Black/African/Caribbean/Black British is 13%.
- Black barristers typically work in practice areas which are less well remunerated and they are suffering more than their white colleagues from the impact of COVID-19.
2. Barbara Mills QC is a barrister at 4 Paper Buildings and Simon Regis is a Deputy Director at the Government Legal Department.
3. About the E&D committee and the Race Working Group: https://www.barcouncil.org.uk/about/bar-council-governance/committees/equality-diversity-and-social-mobility-committee.html
4. About the Bar Council
The Bar Council represents all barristers in England and Wales. It promotes:
- the Bar's high-quality specialist advocacy and advisory services
- fair access to justice for all
- the highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and
- the development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.