• Baroness Helena Kennedy QC to be keynote speaker at College of Law’s ‘Diversity at the Bar’ debate

  • 10 April 2012

  • Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, leading barrister and expert in human rights law, civil liberties and constitutional issues, is to be keynote speaker at a debate on why the Bar has to change to increase diversity held by The College of Law.

    The ‘Diversity at the Bar’ event takes place on Monday, April 16 in front of an invited audience and will be streamed live via the College’s Facebook page to allow everyone to follow the discussion.

    Joining Baroness Kennedy on the panel will be Rolande Anderson, chair of the Bar Standards Board’s Equality and Diversity Committee, Timothy Dutton QC, former chair of the Bar Council and Head of Fountain Court Chambers, Jacqueline Cheltenham, Head of the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) at The College of Law, and Joanne Rourke, Employability Programme Manager, The College of Law Bloomsbury.

    Baroness Kennedy will give her personal perspective on diversity at the Bar and outline her views on how access to the profession could be widened before the panel takes questions from the audience made up of current and prospective Bar students and members of the Bar.

    She said: “It is vital to the health of our justice system that everyone, no matter what their background, has equal access to a career in the legal profession and that it fairly reflects the diverse nature of our society. We still have some way to go to achieve this and I’m looking forward to participating in this important debate organised by The College of Law on the best ways of progressing towards this goal."

    The event, which was originally due to take place in February but was rescheduled, follows the recent publication by the Bar Standards Board and The Bar Council of their latest Bar Barometer report. The publication outlines trends in the profile of the Bar and provides a snapshot of diversity in the profession.

    According to the report, while 53 per cent of students who undertook the BPTC in 2009/10 were women just 34.8 per cent of the practising profession in 2010 were female. Of those barristers practising as Queen’s Counsel in 2010 only 10.9 per cent were women and 4.8 per cent were from a black and minority ethnic group (BME).

    The report also investigated the socio-economic background of those undertaking pupillages in 2009/10 to qualify as practising barristers. It found that 35 per cent of pupils attended fee-paying schools, compared with seven per cent of the overall secondary education sector, 23 per cent attended Oxbridge universities, compared with 1.9 per cent of students in England and Wales in the 2009/10 academic year, and 55 per cent came from a professional background.

    Professor Nigel Savage, Chief Executive of The College of Law, said: “The College is a firm supporter of diversity in legal education and we take our responsibility to widen access to the legal profession very seriously. It is in the interests of the application of justice in this country that the Bar is open to all and reflects the diversity of the community that it serves.

    “The College is keen to explore these issues through our forthcoming event and work with the Bar to help ensure that its desire to be a diverse and representative profession is realised. All of the audience places were snapped up within 24 hours of sending out the invitation so it should be a lively discussion.”

    The debate begins at 6.45pm and can be viewed via the College’s Facebook page

    Further information via Facebook can be found here    

    Further information from Lucy Wray, Press Officer, The College of Law on 01483 216072 (lucy.wray@lawcol.co.uk)

    Bar Barometer, published by the Bar Standards Board and The Bar Council in January 2012 can be downloaded here: