The Bar Council has a commitment to tackle inequality at the Bar and improve socio-economic diversity at all levels of the profession.

Ahead of the Bar Council's Social Mobility Summit on the 14 July 2023, we asked the Sutton Trust, one of the organisations participating, to answer some questions.

Can you tell us about the Sutton Trust?

The Sutton Trust champions social mobility, from birth to the workplace, so that every young person - no matter who their parents are, what school they go to, or where they live - has the chance to succeed in life. Using a distinctive ‘do-tank’ model, the Sutton Trust supports beneficiaries directly through their programmes whilst simultaneously publishing research and policy recommendations that keep Britain’s social mobility challenge high on the agenda for government and the media.

What is the organisation’s purpose?

Social mobility in Britain is low. The educational opportunities and life chances of a child born today are strongly linked to their parents’ socioeconomic background. We want to ensure that every young person, no matter who their parents are, where they go to school or where they live, has the chance to succeed in life.

What is the Pathways to Law programme?

Sutton Trust research has highlighted the lack of socio-economic diversity in the legal sector, with 65% of senior judges having attended independent schools compared to just 7% of the population. The Pathways to Law programme is designed to address this lack of diversity and over a two-year programme young people aged 16-18 from disadvantaged backgrounds get to explore what studying and working in the legal profession is really like.

For more than 15 years the programme has supported 7,000 young people to gain the skills, advice and experience they need to be able to consider a career in law and make an informed choice about their future.

What is the impact of your work?

One of the Sutton Trust’s alums is now an associate at Clifford Chance, and said:

“On the practical front, networking events and work placements meant I had the opportunity to meet a wide range of industry professionals, some of whom I am still in touch with today. The networking was particularly helpful as prior to the programme, I had no family nor friends in law, so did not have a role model to look up to.

“Pathways to Law allowed me to meet so many inspirational people - I was left in awe and spoilt for choice. All of this allowed me to develop to the point where I was able to overcome many of the barriers linked to a career in law. The programme allowed me to grasp an understanding of the law, the people, the etiquette, and the general know-how that no one normally thinks to teach a 16-year-old.

“Six years on, I still use many of the lessons taught on the programme on a day-to-day basis.”

One in three of the Pathways to Law students go on to work in the sector.  

More information

Register to attend the Bar Council’s Social Mobility Summit 2023

Sutton Trust Employer Guide: guidance on how to improve social mobility in the workplace.

Social Mobility: Past, Present & Future: Report from 2020 looking at progress and the current landscape on social mobility.

Class Ceiling: Report and inquiry (2017) on access to professions including the law.