29 Jan 2021

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has today published its annual report on Diversity at the Bar. The report shows that the profession became increasingly diverse in 2020 and that a greater proportion of barristers disclosed their demographic data.

While diversity of the profession continues to improve, there is still more that needs to be done so that the Bar reflects the society it serves.

For the first time, the report uses the term ‘minority ethnic groups’ rather than ‘BAME’ and provides more disaggregated data about ethnicity at the Bar in order to reflect the varied experiences of barristers from different minority ethnic groups.

Some of the key findingsinclude:

  • At 60.9 per cent, men still outnumber women at 38.2 per cent of the practising Bar. The percentage of women at the Bar overall increased by 0.2 percentage points during the last year (or 0.4%).
  • The percentage of practising barristers from minority ethnic groups overall increased by 0.5 percentage points (or 3.7%) to 14.1 per cent, slightly exceeding the estimate of 13.3 per cent of the working age population in England and Wales.
  • Different minority ethnic groups have varied levels of representation at the Bar.  The report presents disaggregated data for different minority ethnic groups:
    • Asian/Asian British barristers made up 7.5 per cent of the practising Bar in December 2020 – an increase of 0.3 percentage points (or 4.4%) year on year. This compares with 5.6 percent of the working age population who identify as Asian/Asian British.
    • The proportion of practising barristers who are Black/Black British rose by 0.05 percentage points (or 1.4%) to 3.2 per cent in 2020; this compares with around 3.4 per cent of the working age population.
    • 3.3 per cent of the practising Bar are from a Mixed/Multiple ethnic background as compared with around 1.5 per cent of the working age population.
  • Male QCs still outnumber female QCs, but the percentage of female QCs increased from 16.2 per cent in December 2019 to 16.8 per cent (0.6 percentage points or 3.7%) in December 2020.
  • The percentage of QCs from minority ethnic backgrounds has increased by 0.7 percentage points (or 8.6%) year on year to 8.8 per cent.
  • The percentage of female pupil barristers was equal to the percentage of male pupils. Although the percentage of female pupils has fallen by around four percentage points since 2019 (or 7.8%), this may be an anomaly resulting from an exceptional year in 2020.
  • The proportion of pupil barristers from minority ethnic backgrounds increased by 3.7 percentage points (or 19.4%) to 22.9 per cent in 2020. This is the highest proportion of pupils from minority ethnic backgrounds, and the largest year on year increase in this statistic, seen since the first Diversity at the Bar Report in 2015.
  • Of the 56.9 per cent who provided information on disability status to us, only 6.3 per cent disclosed a disability. This is substantially lower than the percentage of disabled people in the employed working age UK population estimated at 11.3 per cent.

The response rate amongst barristers disclosing their diversity information increased across all categories in 2020 except for a very small decrease for gender which was already over 99 percent.

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 we are pleased to see that the Bar is increasingly diverse, there is still more work to be done to make the profession truly representative of society. As the regulator, we are committed to taking action to help achieve greater diversity. We are currently reviewing our Equality Rules, have published an anti-racist statement for barristers and chambers, and recently launched a pilot race equality reverse mentoring scheme to address cultural barriers to equality at the Bar. Our work in this important area will continue as we implement our Equality and Diversity Strategy for 2020-2022”.

You can read the Diversity at the Bar report 2020 on our website.


Notes to Editors

About the Bar Standards Board

Our mission is to regulate barristers and specialised legal services businesses in England and Wales in the public interest. For more information about what we do visit: http://bit.ly/1gwui8t

*In each category percentages are expressed as including those barristers who did not provide data except in the case of ethnicity and disability where they are excluded. For the latter, this is in order to make more like for like comparisons with national level data which also excludes non-responses.

Contact: For all media enquiries call: 0207 611 4691 or email [email protected].


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