The Bar continues to become gradually more diverse, but more progress is still needed, says BSB report

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has today published its annual report on Diversity at the Bar. The report shows that progress was made in 2019, with the profession becoming increasingly diverse, and a growing proportion of barristers disclosing demographic data.

While the diversity of barristers and pupils in England and Wales is heading in the right direction, the report shows there is still some way to go before the Bar is as fully diverse as the society it serves.

Some of the key findings include:

  • At 61.3 per cent men still outnumber women at 38.0 per cent of the practising Bar. The percentage of women at the Bar overall increased by 0.6 percentage points during the last year.
  • The percentage of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) practising barristers has increased by 0.6 percentage points compared to December 2018. 13.6 per cent of the practising Bar is now BAME.
  • Within the overall category of BAME there are some notable differences. There is a slightly greater proportion of Asian/Asian British practitioners at the Bar compared to that proportion of the UK working age population (7.2% vs 6.2%), and the same can be said for those from Mixed/Multiple ethnic backgrounds (3.2% vs 1.3%). The opposite pattern is found for those from Black/Black British backgrounds (3.2% vs 3.7%), and for those from Other ethnic groups (1.2% vs 3.2%).
  • Male QCs still outnumber female QCs, but the percentage of female QCs increased from 15.8 per cent in December 2018 to 16.2 per cent in December 2019.
  • The percentage of BAME QCs has increased by 0.3 percentage points year on year with 8.1% being BAME and 87.4% being white and 4.5% not declaring their ethnicity.
  • There is a greater proportion of female pupil barristers, at 54.8%, than male pupil barristers, at 45.2%, for the fourth year in a row.
  • The ethnic diversity of pupil barristers slightly exceeds that of the working-age population of England and Wales, with 19.0 per cent being BAME.
  • Although there is a relatively low response rate of 53.7 per cent, of those that have provided information on disability status to us, only 6 per cent of the Bar disclosed a disability. This is substantially lower than the percentage of disabled people in the employed working age UK population estimated at 13.4 per cent.

The response rate amongst barristers disclosing their diversity information increased across all categories in 2019 except for a very small decrease for gender which is already at 99.90 per cent.

The BSB has a statutory responsibility to monitor and promote equality and diversity both as an employer and as the regulator of barristers in England and Wales.

BSB Head of Equality and Access to Justice, Amit Popat said: “While the data follow a similar trend to those seen in recent years insofar as they show a slow and steady improvement in gender and ethnic diversity at the Bar, there is more to be done before the profession can be said fully to reflect the society it serves. One of the BSB’s key strategic aims is to encourage a more diverse legal profession, and these annual diversity reports provide a strong evidence base so that action can be taken. So, we urge all barristers to complete the diversity data questions when renewing their practising certificates for the year ahead.”

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